Waite Ranch Tidal Wetland Restoration Project
Waite Ranch lies about 3 miles East of Florence, just past the Cushman Bridge, between Hwy. 126 and the Siuslaw River. Historically, the property was a tidal estuary comprised of mudflats, marsh, tidal swamp, riparian forest, and possibly crabapple swamp (the rarest of estuarine plant communities). The property was homesteaded around the turn of the century, when it was diked and used as a dairy farm, and later used for cattle grazing leases.
In 2010, the Waite property was purchased by the McKenzie River Trust (MRT) with the intention of restoring the property to its historic ecological state as a tidal wetland by reestablishing full tidal exchange to the property. To do this, the tide gate preventing tidal exchange on the property will have to be removed and the levee in which the tide gate is installed will need to be lowered to its natural height. The McKenzie River Trust has partnered with the Siuslaw Watershed Council, who will manage the project restoration of the Waite Ranch.
In addition to removing the tide gate and lowering the protective levee, many other restoration activities are planned for the property. The tidal channel will be relocated to the middle of the property to both protect highway 126 and to allow natural meandering of the channel over time. Secondary channels will also be excavated to promote re-establishment of a sinuous dendritic channel system. This will maximize channel formation within the property creating miles of high-quality channel habitat. The site will also be vegetated with native vegetation creating a wide variety of the historic habitats that will benefit various species of birds and fish, including sensitive species such as Coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead, and the marbled murrelet.
The Waite Ranch restoration project will also benefit the local economy. A large restoration project like the Waite Ranch requires an amazing amount of coordination and partnerships between the SWC and MRT project staff, neighbors, a number various local contractors, consultants, and agency personnel.
SWC and MRT have been hard at work consulting with local experts and agencies to finalize project designs. We are anticipating moving into the implementation (construction) phase of the project by summer 2015. There are some exciting upcoming years for the SWC and watershed as a whole as we look forward to reestablishing over 200 acres of high-quality habitat to the lower Siuslaw estuary.