For comprehensive photos of the dam removal project, please click here.
The Cox Creek-Willamette River confluence area has an active floodplain including mature riparian forest, riffle-pool stream morphology, and an off-channel pond. The site is characterized by seasonal inundation, diverse microhabitats, and transitional vegetation cover. During the winter and spring of 2013, the Council worked to remove non-native species such as reed canary grass, Himalayan blackberry and English ivy. These invasives covered roughly 70 percent of an area that also supports remnant native plant communities including cottonwood-dominated floodplain forest, mixed riparian forest and willow dominated shrub-scrub wetland. Although degraded to varying extents, these plant communities continue to provide important habitat, water quality and recreational functions. The riparian and confluence sites are owned by City of Albany, ATI Wah Chang (ATI), and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and are managed for light recreational use by hikers and bicyclists. Site management consists of parking lot and sidewalk maintenance for public access, as well as a trail system that parallels the Willamette River from Baldwin Park downstream to the second Oxbow Lake (Second Lake). The Council’s restortaion work at the site involved the following:
- 11 acres of intensive vegetation control, 9 of which required intense reed canary suppression – 2500 stems/acre
- 5 acres of standard riparian vegetation control- 1000-1500 stems/acre
- Two additional sources of mitigation dollars to support all 16 acres of site preparation, planting and maintenance through 2017
- City of Albany in-kind assistance with plant watering and some maintenance
- Educational and demonstrative components such as signage along trails and high traffic areas, and public tours with City of Albany
- Field trip involving sixth graders from Central Linn Elementary in the benefits of restoration and fish passage barrier removal at Cox Creek
The dam site is owned by ATI and City of Albany is the adjacent property owner. The dam was originally built to impound water for a meat packing plant that formerly occupied the site. ATI now manages the property and the dam long ago outlived its useful lifespan. ATI and City of Albany supported dam removal to reduce liability and improve fish passage on Cox Creek.
These dam removal, riparian restoration, and confluences sites are adjacent to the City of Albany’s Talking Water Gardens, an innovative, integrated wetlands system designed to provide an additional level of natural treatment for combined municipal and industrial treated wastewater effluent. This City project is attracting a lot of attention and visitation from the community and region, thus positioning additional restoration like dam removal and native plantings as complimenting educational components of the larger landscape. Infrastructure on the terrace adjacent to the project area includes the City of Albany wastewater treatment facility, ATI, and transportation corridors including the railroad and road systems. These facilities are located on the eastern perimeter of the sites, but influence Cox Creek. The facilities directly affect channel morphology, aquatic and riparian habitats, and water quality. However, relative to past interactions between these properties and the adjacent waterbodies, contemporary impacts are undoubtedly a fraction of the historical disturbance. Limiting factors for the Albany Oxbow Lakes and Cox Creek confluence area are taken from NMFS (2008) and include observations from the recent assessment. Limiting factors include:
- Altered water temperatures,
- Degraded water quality due to stormwater runoff and discharge from industrial facilities,
- Riparian vegetation loss due to riparian conversion for agriculture and industrial development,
- Habitat simplification due to historical and contemporary industrial use of oxbow lakes and the adjacent floodplain, and
- Fish passage barriers on tributary streams.
Specific actions identified in the Recovery Plan to address limiting factors in the mouths of tributaries to the Willamette River and other approaches to address problems in the Albany Oxbow Lakes area include the following:
- Using the framework in the “Willamette Planning Atlas,” protect and restore aquatic habitat function at the mouths of tributaries; increase non-structural capacity of floodwater, restore natural riparian communities and their function; increase channel complexity; and increase native floodplain forest.
- Assess and address fish passage barriers particularly on Cox Creek.
- Address stormwater inputs to tributaries and oxbow lakes.
- Enhance habitat in Oxbow Lakes and lower tributary reaches.
- Manage invasive plant species and expand native riparian areas.
“Creek, floodplain restoration projects underway“, City Bridges, City of Albany Newsletter, January 2013
“Cox Creek to get makeover” Democrat Herald, July 10th 2012
“Two watershed projects planned in Albany,” Democrat Herald, January 1, 2013
“Albany set to begin 2 watershed projects,” KGW Online, January 2, 2013
Springtime on Cox Creek (An Update), Hasso Herring, March 30, 2013
Project permits for the Cox Creek project are now available by clicking the following links;