La Center Bottoms is a series of wetlands along the East Fork Lewis River just upstream from the city of La Center. Clark County acquired a great deal of high-quality floodplain wetland habitat along the East Fork Lewis River through its Legacy Lands program, including the Bottoms, with the purpose of conserving natural resources as well as providing recreational access to the public. The East Fork Lewis is a high priority river for salmon and steelhead, and the County and the Estuary Partnership share the goal of protecting habitat in this area, so we partnered on a project that ultimately restored 438 acres of fish and wildlife habitat.
The East Fork Lewis River (EFLR) is an important waterway in the Lower Columbia River Estuary system. One of the few undammed rivers with no hatchery programs, the EFLR supports five runs of native fish including fall chinook, winter & summer steelhead, coho and chum. This watershed was designated a wild steelhead genetic sanctuary in 2014.
Yet the Bottoms' ability to provide habitat for these important species was limited because of past human-made impacts including levees, water control structures, and land uses. These altered the flow of the river, impaired the function of its riparian area and floodplain, increased water temperatures, and made it difficult or impossible for fish to access the site.
Construction took place in 2015. To restore fish passage and floodplain connection, we removed fish passage barriers including a weir and an undersized culvert. Crews created four new connection channels between the East Fork Lewis River and the La Center wetlands. The Bottoms is a popular wildlife-viewing area, so we also enhanced recreation access by installing four new pedestrian/equestrian bridges over the new connections along the riverside trial. And crews installed more than 60,000 native trees and shrubs across 30 acres. Our project contractors were Aquatic Contracting and Kynsi Construction.
In addition to these actions to restore habitat, the project engaged La Center students, teachers and community members in classroom environmental education, field trips and community events to plant more than 4,000 trees and shrubs along Breeze Creek, a tributary of the EFLR, in the two years following project construction. Involving the schools and the greater community broadened both the project’s restoration and education footprint. Today, we continue to take La Center students on educational field trips to the Bottoms.
Actual Miles Restored