20 Years of the Estuary Partnership: Did You Know?

20 years ago, the outlook for bald eagles in the lower Columbia River was dismal

Research in the early 1990s found that eagles nesting along sections of the lower Columbia River produced only half as many young per nest as eagles nesting elsewhere in Oregon and Washington. DDT and other organochlorine compounds, which were banned in the 1970s, persist in water and sediment and accumulate in the fatty tissues of organisms living in the river. Fish and birds that depend on these organisms for food bioaccumulate the organochlorines in their bodies over time as they eat prey from the river. These compounds both change the behavior of eagle parents during incubation and cause eggshell thinning, resulting in the death of unhatched eagle chicks.

Progress has been made, but there is more to be done

Bald eagles were officially removed from the list of endangered species in July 2007, after decades of efforts to restore their habitat and reduce threats to their survival. But our work to restore these raptors in the lower river is not done. While the number of breeding pairs has significantly increased in the lower Columbia over the last 20 years, the reproductive success of eagles here is still below state averages. The most recent study demonstrated that contaminant levels have decreased, but eagles are still exposed to levels of organochlorines high enough to impair breeding success. We need to clean up persistent contaminants and reduce new sources throughout the Columbia Basin so they do not continue to end up in the Columbia estuary's water, fish, and wildlife.

 

Celebrating 20 years of the Estuary Partnership

In 1995, the Lower Columbia River Bi-State Water Quality Program completed six years of studies of the current conditions and challenges facing the lower Columbia River. From this collaborative process, the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership was created to provide regional collaboration, fill gaps in knowledge, and advance on-the-ground habitat and water quality improvements in the lower river. Join us in celebrating 20 years of restoring habitat, improving water quality, and educating the next generation of Columbia River stewards!

Toxics Wildlife