Amazon Creek: Restoration of a Wetland

April 1, 2000
Over 42 ac. of jute were laid in less that 10 days.
ECS fabricated these rollers to lay the jute.

On the western outskirts of Eugene, OR, a 400-ac. area of historic wetland is being reclaimed in a cooperative effort of the Bureau of Land Management, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the City of Eugene. Prior to settlement in the 1850s, the Lower Amazon Creek Basin and much of the Willamette Valley were dominated by seasonal wet prairie. By the late 1800s, most of that area had been drained and converted to agricultural use. In the 1950s, flood-control projects built in west Eugene further degraded the wetland as connecting drainages were channelized and lined with flood-control levees.

In the early 1990s, the 400-ac. site was acquired by the City of Eugene for wetland protection and restoration purposes. The project involves levee removal along the Amazon Creek system within this area and restoration of adjacent agricultural lands to native wet prairie wetlands. The natural path of the creek will be restored, and the surrounding area will be allowed to flood seasonally. New levees are being constructed around the project boundaries to maintain flood protection adjacent to the project area.

This $4.2-million restoration project is one the largest to be undertaken outside of the Florida Everglades. The funding comes from a combination of sources, including the Army Corps of Engineers section 1135 program, the Federal Land and Water Conservation program, the West Eugene Wetland Mitigation Bank, and the City of Eugene. It is the largest 1135 program that the Army Corps of Engineers has undertaken in 1999.

Crews adjust and pin down jute geonetting along Amazon Creek.

Scott Duckett, wetlands manager for the City of Eugene, says, “We planted over 350,000 native plants (and actually more than that if you add in the seed). The first phase was a farming-type operation-a combination of hydromulching and drill seeding. Then we went to a large reservoir near the site and harvested wetland plants by scooping up the material with a tractor-excavator. We brought that material back to the site, and a crew of about 50 people broke up the material into planting units and planted it out in the channel. We also had a private nursery grow out some specialty species. Finally, we had a planting of about 50 different varieties of hand-collected seed.”

Erosion Control Services (ECS) of Wilsonville, OR, a contracting firm that specializes in installation of various best management practices for wetland and water-quality facility planting, was contracted to lay over 42 ac. of jute netting this summer on the site. Bob Booth, ECS sales manager of the company, remarks, “It was a very successful project for us. We met the time requirements and laid the jute in less than 10 days. All the grading, seeding, and planting that had to be done before we laid the jute followed on one another pretty seamlessly.” Native plants, including grasses and lupins, were either hydraulically or drill-seeded, and the jute was laid over the plantings and pinned at 1-m intervals to ensure that that the soil stays in place until the plants can establish themselves.”

Geonetting is placed over hydraulically seeded areas.

Sedges, rushes, sidalcea, lupins, and camus, as well as native varieties of grasses, were planted by volunteers from volunteer coordination programs administered by the City of Eugene. Duckett notes that they saw a lot of the grasses coming up about two months after planting and a good grow-in of the sidalcea and lupin plugs. “We do have a problem with nutria though; they love the fresh little shoots of spiked bulrush.”

Once the environmental restoration part of the project gets a foothold, a 2-mi. extension of the Fern Ridge Bike Path will be constructed through the site to provide recreational and educational access. There will be a public overlook area with parking, allowing people to look out over the wetlands.

“This project will restore historic drainage and flooding patterns and enable a lot of animals to return to the area once the vegetation is established,” says Booth.