Tide Gates Exploration

McDonald Slough Reconnection tide gate project in 2016 at the McDonald Slough in the Nehalem Estuary along the North Oregon Coast.

Tide gates and associated infrastructure provide an important tool for protecting and controlling water and allowing for land uses, such as agriculture and roadways, along the Columbia River and North Coast of Oregon. Yet, the total number and condition of tide gates is just now beginning to be understood.

Over the past few years, the Oregon Tide Gate Partnership has collected publicly available and existing data on tide gates on the Oregon Coast and compiled it into an inventory.

Public outreach meetings about the tide gates were held in early 2019 in Clatskanie, Newport, Tillamook and Coquille. The discussions centered on clarity surrounding regulatory compliance and permitting requirements, possible pilot projects and funding.

Starting in early September, the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce (CREST) will evaluate the accuracy of this data through field observations extending from Gearhart to the Columbia River Mouth on the Oregon Coast and along the Columbia River Estuary and its tributaries up to Portland.

The field studies will verify specific information on the number of tide gates, their locations, the waterways they connect to and add or remove tide gates as appropriate to reflect what is truly on the water.

CREST staff will use public roads, trails, and public waterways to collect tide gate inventory data. The on-the-ground portion of the inventory of the North Coast and Columbia Estuary will be completed by Oct. 31.

According to a report issued in 2019 by the Oregon Tide Gate Partnership Group, if tide gates fail, roads, businesses, homes, and agricultural lands become more vulnerable to flooding and intense winter storms. Areas once managed by tide gates area at risk of becoming unmanaged wetlands.

A well-designed and managed tide gate strikes the delicate balance of protecting developed land from tidal inundation while managing tidal flows to allow migration of native fish, and maintain water quality and ecological function in the estuary, according to the Oregon Tide Gate Partnership Group.

The goal of the Oregon Tide Gate Partnership Group is to develop a voluntary, collaboration-based action plan for tide gate repair or replacement that is cost effective, efficient to implement and is supported by tide gate owners, regulatory agencies and organizations providing technical assistance and funding.

The CREST field studies are being sponsored by The Nature Conservancy, who will use the data to inform a tide gate decision support tool that helps pinpoint opportunities for future collaborations with landowners. The results of the model will also be used by CREST and other Columbia River partners for consideration in planning, outreach and estuary restoration projects.

The updated data will also be provided to the Oregon Tide Gate Partnership to update their overall tide gate inventory.

CREST, located in Astoria, is a community organization specializing in environmental planning, ecological monitoring and habitat restoration for fish and wildlife. CREST offers expertise in habitat restoration project design, funding, management, implementation and monitoring with the goal of improving and enhancing the natural resources that are essential to the vitality and resilience of the communities along the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River Estuary in Oregon and Washington.

See videos about the tide gates at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oROqhrXYYFs

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