Our Management Plan



2011 Management Plan Update

The Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the Lower Columbia River serves as the strategic plan for the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership. It guides all our activities and annual work. All National Estuary Programs are tasked with developing and implementing a Management Plan.

In 2011, we updated our Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan with new, streamlined actions, detailed below. 

The full 2011 Management Plan Update can be viewed here.

Shared Actions
  • Habitat Restoration
    • ACTION 1:  Inventory habitat types and attributes in the lower Columbia River and estuary and prioritize those that need protection and conservation; identify habitats and environmentally sensitive lands that should not be altered.
    • ACTION 2: Protect, conserve, and enhance priority habitats, particularly wetlands, on the mainstem of the lower Columbia River and in the estuary.
    • ACTION 3:  Monitor status and trends of ecosystem conditions.
    • ACTION 4:  Establish and maintain Columbia River flows to meet ecological needs of the lower Columbia River and estuary.
    • ACTION 5:  Avoid the introduction of non-native invasive species.
    • ACTION 6:  Manage human-caused changes in the river morphology and sediment distribution within the Columbia River channel and estuary to protect native and desired species.
  • Land Use Practices
    • ACTION 7:  Develop floodplain management and shoreland protection programs.
    • ACTION 8:  Reduce and improve the water quality of stormwater runoff and other non-point source pollution.
    • ACTION 9:  Ensure that development is ecologically sensitive and reduces carbon emissions. 
  • Water Quality and Contaminant Reduction
    • ACTION 10:  Expand and sustain regional monitoring of toxic and conventional pollutants.
    • ACTION 11:  Reduce conventional pollutants.
    • ACTION 12:  Cleanup, reduce or eliminate toxic contaminants, particularly contaminants of regional concern.
Estuary Partnership Actions
  • Education and Stewardship
    • ACTION 13: Provide information about the lower Columbia River and estuary that focuses on water quality, endangered species, habitat loss and restoration, biological diversity, and climate change to a range of users.  
    • ACTION 14:  Create and implement education and volunteer opportunities for citizens of all ages to engage in activities that promote stewardship of the lower Columbia River and estuary.
    • ACTION 15:  Identify and improve public access to the river.
  • Regional Coordination and Synchronicity
    • ACTION 16:  Facilitate and assist federal, tribal, state and local governments’ protection of the lower Columbia River and estuary.   
    • ACTION 17:  Create and maintain a regional entity (Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership) to advocate for the lower Columbia River and estuary and unify and coordinate Management Plan implementation.

1999 Management Plan

The 2011 update refined and streamlined the Plan's actions. As such, the original 1999 Plan provides important background and details on the Program's priority issues and goals. The full 1999 Management Plan can be viewed here.
  • 1999 Management Plan Priority Issues
    • Biological Integrity
      The populations of certain native species in the Lower Columbia River Estuary have declined, and numerous species are now listed as endangered or threatened. Ecosystem functions are impaired, decreasing the ability of the river system to support a healthy, adaptive community of plant and animal life. Restoring and maintaining the biological integrity of the system is the ultimate goal of the Estuary Program.
    • Conventional Pollutants
      Pollutants from a variety of sources have negatively affected water quality. Common problems include high water temperatures and high levels of dissolved gas. Standards for bacteria, dissolved oxygen, and pH are exceeded on occasion. Turbidity and sedimentation are also of concern.
    • Toxic Contaminants
      Toxic contaminants have been found in sediment and fish tissue. Levels of PCBs, DDE, and dioxin are high enough that they may be linked to reproductive failure in bald eagles, mink, and river otters. They also pose a threat to human health.
    • Habitat Loss and Modification
      Human activities over the last 100 years have significantly altered the estuary and resulted in much habitat loss and modification. Dams, dikes, maintenance dredging, urbanization, agriculture, forestry, and land use practices all contribute to this alteration. Loss of habitat harms fish and wildlife populations. Economic and recreational activities that depend on these resources are also threatened.
    • Impacts of Human Activity and Growth
      Many past and current human activities have degraded the natural environment. As population continues to grow, land use and development practices could result in further pollution, habitat loss, and impacts to fish and wildlife.
    • Institutional Constraints
      Many agencies and levels of government are currently involved in managing and protecting the estuary. This complex and sometimes conflicting network hampers efforts to protect and improve the health of the estuary.
    • Public Awareness and Stewardship
      There is a continual need to connect ourselves as individual, corporate, and community citizens to our river. Greater awareness will lead to stronger river protection.
  • Habitat and Land Use Actions

    1. Inventory and prioritize habitat types and attributes needing protection and conservation. Identify habitats and environmentally sensitive lands that should not be altered.

    2. Protect, conserve and enhance identified habitats, particularly wetlands, on the mainstem of the lower Columbia River.

    3. Adopt and implement consistent wetland, riparian, and aquatic habitat protection standards that result in an increase in quality and quantity of habitat.

    4. Preserve and/or restore buffer areas in appropriate locations along tributaries and the mainstem to a condition that is adequate to maintain a healthy, functioning riparian zone for the lower river and estuary.

    5. Restore 3000 acres of tidal wetlands along the lower 46 river miles to return tidal wetlands to 50% of the 1948 level.

    6. Monitor the effectiveness of habitat protection, restoration and mitigation projects.

    7. Develop floodplain management and shoreland zoning protection programs.

    8. Reduce the volume and velocity and improve the water quality of stormwater runoff in developed areas.

    9. Use tools and incentives in local planning ordinances and state laws to encourage environmentally sensitive development.

    10. Establish, or modify, minimum flows (including mainstem flows) to meet instream needs. Evaluate the cumulative impact of all proposed water withdrawals, diversions, or instream structures to ensure that established minimum flows are maintained.

    11. Avoid the introduction of unwanted exotic species and manage the deliberate introduction of desirable exotic species in the lower Columbia River and estuary.

    12. Ensure that human-caused changes in the river morphology and sediment distribution within the river channel and estuary are managed so that native and desired species are not harmed.

    13. Identify and increase points of public access to the river. Ensure that access does not cause further loss of habitat, increased erosion, loss of riparian vegetation, or degradation of water quality.

  • Education and Management Actions

    14. Create an entity that serves as an advocate for the lower Columbia River and estuary.

    15. Establish a common vision for and unified commitment to the health of the river.

    16. Maintain public information and education efforts about the lower river and estuary that focus on endangered species, habitat loss and restoration, biological diversity, and lifestyle practices and connections to the river.

    17. Use best management practices to reduce non-point source pollution.

    18. Help local governments comply with federal, state and local environmental and land use laws.

    19. Coordinate federal and state threatened and endangered species recovery standards in the lower Columbia River and estuary and help local communities meet species recovery requirements.

    20. Enforce existing environmental and land use laws.

    21. Improve coordination among government agencies.

    22. Design, support and agree to use dispute resolution processes leading to resolution of institutional conflicts that affect the river.

    23. Develop and implement consistent water quality related laws, rules, and standards.

    24. Establish an award program to promote successful stewardship and pollution prevention activities.

    25. Administer grant programs to assist users with Management Plan implementation and to assist school children in educational efforts that focus on endangered species and habitat loss.

    26. Coordinate volunteer monitoring programs and create or coordinate volunteer opportunities on the lower river.

    27. Implement the Estuary Program information management plan.

    28. Implement the Estuary Program long-term monitoring plan.

  • Conventional and Toxic Pollutants Actions

    29. Monitor and evaluate potential effects of pollutants on human health and wildlife.

    30. Develop a basin-wide strategy for identified toxic and conventional pollutants that defines their sources, fate and effects, and reduces their discharge.

    31. Use pollution prevention to reduce or eliminate toxic and conventional pollution generated during manufacturing and industrial processes.

    32. Reduce and maintain temperature and total dissolved gas, in the mainstem and tributaries, to help sustain native species.

    33. Reduce the bacterial contamination sometimes found in the Columbia River and its tributaries to limit human exposure to contaminated water.

    34. Develop maximum pollutant loads for streams that do not meet water quality standards.

    35. Eliminate new sources of bioaccumulative chemicals; eliminate existing source discharges of bioaccumulative chemicals; and control bioaccumulative discharges from contaminated sites.

    36. Require all permitted discharges to surface water to use alternatives to chlorine to protect aquatic life where such alternatives provide equivalent removal and treatment of bacteria.

    37. Require that industrial wastewater that is discharged to municipal wastewater treatment facilities does not contain materials that exhibit chronic toxicity or that interact with other chemicals to cause toxic effects.

    38. Reduce hydrocarbon (PAHs) and heavy metal emissions from petroleum powered engines that contaminate runoff with toxic chemicals.

    39. Clean up hazardous waste sites.

    40. Regulate and track the use of hazardous material to prevent re-uses that contaminate surface water or groundwater.

    41. Provide subsidized hazardous material disposal opportunities for small volume users and generators.

    42. Require all marine facilities to have safety and spill prevention and clean up plans in place and to have sewage and bilge pump out facilities and treatment procedures.

    43. Pursue safe deposition and timely clean up of nuclear wastes stored at the Trojan and Hanford nuclear facilities.

The Management Plan embodies the efforts of many committed citizens who represent environmental groups, local governments, state and federal agencies, ports, tribal governments, industry, labor, agriculture, recreational users, commercial fishing, the regional Northwest Power Planning Council, and citizens-at-large. In keeping with the National Estuary Program emphasis on collaborative local decision-making, there were extensive public outreach and involvement opportunities during the Plan’s development.