Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project

Construction on the Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project moves at a steady pace! 

Driving bridge piles

The construction crew from Elting NW has been hard at work and is making great progress:

  • The bypass road is built and old roadway is removed
  • Crews have driven 12 piles for a new bridge on Reeder Road over Dairy Creek
  • The first bridge abutment is completed and concrete scheduled for the second
  • Crews have installed 8 debris boom piles
  • A good portion of the new channel in Dairy Creek and the marshplain bench is complete

See the latest collection of photos from the construction site:

Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project – Construction Photos 8.2018


Here are some resources to learn more about this project:

Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project FAQ

August 2018 Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project Newsletter

May 2018 Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project Newsletter

February 2018 Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project Newsletter

To alert island residents and visitors to traffic delays during bridge construction through the summer and early fall, signs have been posted at the site and on island bulletin boards. Lower speed limits will be in effect through the construction zone. While the bypass road will not cause traffic stops, it will likely be slow during peak weekend travel times during the summer. Construction flaggers will be on hand to direct motorists while construction is underway.  The District has secured a dedicated email address for information about the project:  We look forward to answering any of your questions.

West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District crews have removed thickets of non-native blackberry and false indigo bush along the banks of Dairy Creek, and plan to replace them with native trees and shrubs in the winter of 2018-2019.

Last summer, Conservation District staff conducted a survey of the Sturgeon Lake shoreline looking for potential invasive plants. While little of significance was found, valuable baseline information was needed before the Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project reestablishes a tidal link between Dairy Creek and the Columbia River. Once the creek is reopened, new weed seeds will be able to float into the lake, so keeping a vigilant eye out for new invaders will help keep the lake pristine and maximize its value to fish and wildlife.

Due to the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) funding a more significant portion of the project costs, management of the project has been transferred from the US Army Corps of Engineers to BPA. In turn, BPA partners with the Conservation District and the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce to oversee the final design and construction of the project.


October, 2017 – invasive vegetation removal completed

July, 2018 – by-pass road installed, culvert removal, bridge construction begins

August/September, 2018 – bridge and channel work

October/November, 2018 – project completed, final site cleanup, native riparian plantings

February, 2019 – additional native riparian plants installed

Project Background

West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District (WMSWCD) has been working on Sturgeon Lake restoration since the District was formed in 1944. By that time, the Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams were constructed on the Columbia River, denying upriver access to migratory salmon. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) built an 18-mile levee in 1941 to prevent annual flooding of more than 11,000 acres of prime agricultural land. That project severely restricted natural flows to Sturgeon Lake leading to increased sedimentation and greatly reduced aquatic habitat function. While a federally-funded project re-opened the channel from the Columbia River via Dairy Creek in 1989, subsequent floods blocked the creek’s mouth and reversed efforts to restore flow.

In 1982, the first Oregon State University study concluded that a connection between the Columbia River and Sturgeon Lake was necessary to reverse sedimentation. Dairy Creek at the south end of the Lake was identified as the best option for that connection. In 1985, WMSWCD created a partnership with ODFW and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to explore ways to re-establish the Dairy Creek connection and completed a creek channel redirection in 1989. However, the historic floods of 1996-97 send sand and woody debris to the mouth of Dairy Creek, plugging the channel. Shortly thereafter, many Columbia River salmonid species were listed for federal Endangered Species Act protection.

In 2007, WMSWCD convened a work group to take another look at options to re-open Dairy Creek or find other alternatives. The USACE completed a feasibility study of the project area, which totals 10,580 acres and includes Sturgeon Lake and the surrounding land on Sauvie Island.  WMSWCD signed on as the “local sponsor” of the project.  The study recommended replacing the culverts over Dairy Creek at Reeder Road, which were failing; removing the sand plug from the mouth of Dairy Creek and re-configuring the Dairy Creek channel.

The total project cost will be $6.5 million, of which WMSWCD is responsible for raising $1.5 million as the its share under a matching fund agreement. The Conservation District secured $1 million from the Bonneville Power Administration, $300,000 from Multnomah County to replace two plugged culverts, and $100,000 from a Metro grant.  In addition, the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation designed and operated a fundraising campaign for the District and exceeded its own goal of raising $365,000 from its members and the general public. Now the District turns its attention to raising funds for maintenance and contingency costs.

Significance of Sturgeon Lake

Sturgeon Lake (3200 ac.), owned and managed as wildlife refuge by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), borders and is connected to Multnomah Channel via the Gilbert River and connected to Columbia River by Dairy Creek. It is one of the premier natural and biologically significant aquatic and wildlife habitats in the state.  Sturgeon Lake is an important link in the Pacific Flyway for waterfowl and a wide variety of bird species, offering winter habitat to 200,000 geese alone. In addition, juvenile salmon will leave the main river and seek refuge from high flows within the lake and sloughs. They use this time to increase in size and heartiness which in turn increases their likelihood of survival when they reach the ocean. Sturgeon Lake is identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy as a “conservation opportunity area” and restoring flushing flows to the lake for salmon habitat restoration is specifically named as a state strategy.

The lake is roughly the size of Manhattan and is the largest tidally-influenced freshwater lake in the United States. In addition to the benefits to wildlife, some 800,000 people recreate on Sauvie Island every year, spending time in the Wildlife Area, hunting, fishing, hiking, using the beaches and visiting farms to buy fresh produce.

For more information, read the following:

Dairy Creek Feasibility Study 

Environmental Assessment for Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project

Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project – A Clean Lakes Legacy