CHINOOK - Armed with a $225,000 grant from the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership, Sea Resources has embarked on a project to improve the flow of water through an antiquated culvert between Chinook and Fort Columbia. The project is part of a three-year program to restore the river's estuary.

Robert Warren, director of Sea Resources, said sediment is building up in the river causing the water table to rise and creating flooding at the road leading to Sea Resources.

As he said at a meeting several months ago to present the restoration projects to the public,

"If nothing is done it will get worse. We're not trying to get the river back to what it was 200 years ago. We want to make it viable again. If the water table continues to rise, Sea Resources will float away."

In the 1930s, Highway 101 was built, replacing what had been a trestle crossing the east branch of the Chinook River. Before the highway was built, the river flowed freely to the northern wetland area.

Now, the road acts as a dam, holding back silt and water which has contributed to the flooding on Houchen Road near Sea Resources. A 24-inch culvert was placed under the highway when it was built and is too high to allow for proper drainage, Warren said.

Work is being done on a design to remove and replace the culvert by Ducks Unlimited and Washington Department of Transportation will be completing a survey on the project.

"The idea is to make the culvert opening larger and lower for more natural flow of water," Warren said.

Included in the project is a self-regulating tidegate on the bay side of the highway that "will provide flood protection and restore fish habitat."

"It's good for fish and for people," he said.

Partners in the project, besides Ducks Unlimited and WSDOT are Washington State Parks and the Columbia River Estuary Taskforce which are applying for an additional $168,000 grant to complete the funding.

A larger part of the proposed Chinook River Restoration Project, which proposed removal of the existing tidegate and bridge west of Chinook is on hold for the moment, Warren said.

"We'll do the Fort Columbia project first," he said. "We're taking baby steps on the big project and are advocating slowing everything down."

He said they'll be working on the existing tide gate at the bridge "to see if we can flush out the river channel."

A number of residents at the meeting several months ago voiced their concerns that the bridge and tidegate replacement work would flood their property.

"We've met with landowners on Chinook Valley Road, asking for solutions and for what they'd like to see done to improve river conditions," he said.

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