PMEP partners are lead authors on a newly published collaborative study that maps the historical extent of West Coast estuaries and estimates losses of vegetated tidal wetlands since European settlement. It is the first time researchers have applied consistent methods across all 450 estuaries of the contiguous U.S. West Coast. Their results show that more than a century of development has erased roughly 85 percent of original vegetated estuarine wetlands, especially around major river deltas.
Bryant Chesney is a Senior Marine Habitat Resource Specialist with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) West Coast Region and has worked on a variety of habitat conservation efforts since 2000. Currently, Bryant works in Long Beach, California, and focuses on marine habitat conservation in support of protected species and sustainable fisheries. He is particularly interested in seagrass and rocky reef ecology and conservation. In addition to marine habitat conservation, Bryant supports PRD’s efforts to conserve and recover sea turtles, abalone, and other protected marine species. Bryant works closely with regulatory agencies to provide conservation recommendations for coastal development projects that adversely affect estuarine and marine ecosystems in southern California. Specifically, he has experience with port/harbor development, aquaculture, shoreline protection, transportation, dredging, and fill projects. In addition, Bryant has worked with various partnerships to advance conservation and restoration goals by providing leadership, scientific expertise, and policy support. He has been involved with a number of seagrass transplanting projects and has assisted with studies related to the distribution, ecology, and fishery utilization of eelgrass and has helped advance the status of seagrass conservation and monitoring in California. He also played a significant leadership role in an important wetlands partnership, Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project.
Todd Zackey is the Marine and Nearshore Program Manager for the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Department and has been working for the Tribes for 17 years. He manages the research and monitoring efforts for the department in the marine and estuary areas of the Tribes usual and accustomed area and is responsible for mapping, monitoring, assessing, and protecting the Tribes’ nearshore and marine resources on and off the Tulalip Reservation. Todd has conducted and been involved in a variety of monitoring and research projects in the nearshore areas of the Puget Sound including water quality monitoring, mapping of intertidal habitat, studying juvenile salmon utilization of the Snohomish River estuary, pocket estuaries, and small coastal streams and monitoring the recovery of the Qwuloolt Restoration project in the Snohomish River Estuary. Todd is an active member of the Island County Local Integrating Organization, San Juan Salmon Technical Advisory Group, and Co-Chair of the Island County Salmon Technical Advisory Group. Todd is excited to be part of the PMEP Steering Committee and learn about and contribute to efforts to protect, preserve, and recover fish habitat across the entire West Coast.
The National Fish Habitat Partnership has unveiled its list of “Waters to Watch” for 2019. This annual list represents a collection of strategic conservation efforts implemented on rivers, streams, estuaries, and lakes to protect, restore, or enhance fish habitat. These voluntary, locally-driven projects represent some of the top conservation activities in progress implemented by 20 regional Fish Habitat Partnerships throughout the country.
Two projects funded by the Pacific Marine and Estuarine Fish Habitat Partnership (PMEP) made the list this year:
Sullivan Gulch Bottomland Restoration restored fish passage and winter rearing habitat for coho salmon and other native fish on 31 acres of the Sixes River estuarine floodplain at Oregon’s Cape Blanco State Park. Coho are listed as Threatened in the Sixes River watershed, and winter rearing habitat is the primary limiting factor to their recovery. The project also restored wetland habitat for shore birds and amphibians; enhanced habitat for migratory songbirds, small mammals, and elk; and improved livestock management on pasture leased to a local ranching family who raise cattle and sheep.
Columbia-Pacific Passage Habitat Restoration at Megler Creek restored off-channel foraging and rearing opportunities for juvenile salmon in the Columbia River estuary. The project is the second phase of a multi-phase effort involving three separate tributaries to the Columbia River estuary. The three sites are located within five miles of each other on the Columbia River shoreline in southwest Washington.
PMEP provides funding for fish habitat restoration and protection projects annually. Watch for the Request for Proposal for 2020 funding in fall 2019.
The 2019 “Waters to Watch” list and associated Fish Habitat Partnerships:
- Alexander Creek, AK – Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership
- Amargo Creek, NM – Desert Fish Habitat Partnership
- Coal Creek, WY – Western Native Trout Initiative
- Crews Creek, GA – Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership
- Elephant Butte Reservoir, NM – Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership
- Megler Creek, WA – Pacific Marine and Estuarine Partnership
- Spasski River and Hoonah Native Forest Partnership, AK – SE Alaska Fish Habitat Partnership
- Sullivan Gulch, OR – Pacific Marine and Estuarine Partnership
- Tainter Creek, WI – Fishers and Farmers Partnership/Driftless Area Restoration Effort
- Upper Green Valley Creek, CA – California Fish Passage Forum
Shauna Hanisch-Kirkbride is the Managing Director of Lower Columbia Fish Enhancement Group in Vancouver. LCFEG is one of Washington’s 14 regional fisheries enhancement groups—the RFEGs are nonprofit, community based organizations that work with local partners to implement on-the-ground salmonid habitat restoration projects. Shauna studied at the University of Montana (B.S.), Boise State University (MPA), and Michigan State University (Ph.D. in Fisheries and Wildlife). Before returning to her home state of Washington in 2018, Shauna lived in the Washington DC area and in Michigan. While east of the Mississippi, she worked on double-crested cormorant management with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service migratory bird program, completed doctoral research on the human dimensions of wildlife disease, and was an assistant professor of environmental science. She is happy to be back in the Pacific Northwest and working to improve habitat for our native salmonids.
The Pacific Marine and Estuarine Fish Habitat Partnership’s Estuaries Explorer data tool was recently added to the NOAA Digital Coast website. The Estuaries Explorer application enables you to explore the estuaries of Washington, Oregon, and California and compare them to each other. You can combine dynamic filters and an interactive map to find specific estuary types you are interested in, or estuaries that contain focal species of interest. You can explore estuaries in more detail and find a specific estuary by name or location. You can also zoom to a specific area on the map to compare estuaries and the filters automatically update to show you the number of estuaries in that area that meet different conditions. The Estuaries Explorer tool integrates a wide variety of datasets from along the West Coast, providing restoration practitioners, researchers, and resource managers with comprehensive estuary data for improved decision-making. Find it on the NOAA Digital Coast website here or access it from the PMEP website here.
PMEP has issued a Request for Proposals for Nearshore Science support for our nearshore project. PMEP seeks to identify a contractor to conduct literature reviews, compile available information, and collaborate with regional experts including the PMEP nearshore regional working group to develop a “State of the Knowledge” report on West Coast nearshore habitats. The full RFP can be found at the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission website here.
PMEP is thrilled to welcome Katie Nichols as the newest member of our Steering Committee. Katie is the Marine Restoration Director for Orange County Coastkeeper, a nonprofit based in Costa Mesa. At Coastkeeper she designs and implements restoration projects on nearshore habitats in collaboration with volunteers, scientists and agencies in Southern California. Her research interests include resource management and the development of practical and innovative solutions to the challenges facing marine ecosystems. She received her B.A. in Environmental Studies and Marine Biology from UC Santa Cruz and her M.S. in Marine Ecology from San Diego State University. Prior to joining Coastkeeper, Katie worked as a Knauss Sea Grant fellow for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service in Washington D.C., as a project manager with the Sustainable Fisheries Group at UC Santa Barbara, and in fisheries policy and resource management with NOAA in Hawaii and Long Beach. As a member of our Steering Committee, Katie will help guide PMEP’s work as we strive to improve the science and managment behind fish habitat restoration along the West Coast.
PMEP hosted a Data Tools Cafe at the 9th National Summit on Coastal and Estuarine Restoration and Management, held in Long Beach in December 2018. The session introduced PMEP to restoration practitioners, researchers, and resource managers as it highlighted the many functions and uses of PMEP data tools. The session featured hands-on exercises to get participants familiar with the data tools. Participants walked through the Estuary Explorer tools, finding which estuaries on the west coast are at low-risk for habitat degradation, where tidal forested wetlands are located, and where wetland restoration would most benefit federally managed species. These questions showed the value of the data tools to habitat conservation and restoration planning, minimizing impact on Essential Fish Habitat, and assessing the benefits of projects to species and habitats. The session exemplified PMEP’s collaborative structure by including speakers from The Nature Conservancy, NOAA Fisheries, Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, Estuary Technical Group, and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
The Pacific Marine and Estuarine Fish Habitat Partnership has plotted its course for the next five years. Its recently approved 2018-2022 Strategic Plan identifies three overarching priorities for work over the next five years:
- Protect, restore and enhance fish habitat in California, Oregon, and Washington Estuaries with an emphasis on juvenile rearing areas.
- Protect, restore, and enhance fish habitat in the nearshore Pacific Ocean.
- Increase Connectivity between habitats within PMEP’s geographic scope.
We will accomplish this work through the collaborative partnerships we have built over the last decade. The full Strategic Plan 2018-2022 can be found here.