Gee Creek Watershed Restoration Project
The Gee Creek Watershed Restoration project, sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and WSU Clark County Extension in cooperation with the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership, the Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, the City of Ridgefield, and individual citizens, ended in December 2009.
Partners worked to maintain and enhance water quality and habitat conditions in Gee Creek and the surrounding watershed landscape by:
- Working independently and jointly with agencies, organizations, and individuals to identify, prioritize and develop watershed restoration projects;
- Executing on-the-ground restoration, including tree plantings, invasive plant control, water quality monitoring, field assessments, and school education projects;
- Educating Gee Creek Watershed residents about watersheds and best management practices to protect surface and ground waters and habitat conditions.
In January 2010, the project transitioned to more narrowly focus on restoration work with the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge under the sponsorship of Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. For information, contact Lynn Cornelius, Habitat Restoration Coordinator, at Lynn_Cornelius@fws.gov or 360-887-3883 x14.
Gee Creek after entering the Carty Unit, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, spring 2006.
Modern Gee Creek restoration began in 1991 when the Greater Clark County Rotary Club initiated annual stream planting projects with volunteers, landowners, and Ridgefield High School students. In 1994, the Clark Conservation District, collaborating with other public agencies and stream experts, formed the community-based Gee Creek Enhancement Committee. Meetings were organized and restoration project goals were developed and carried out, including: tree plantings, livestock fencing, interpretive displays and signs, stream assessments, fish surveys, and educational outreach on watershed best management practices. Since 2001, dedicated community volunteers and partners have continued restoration work on Gee Creek.
In the spring of 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and WSU Clark County Extension initiated a joint effort to provide new funding to support and expand watershed enhancement efforts in partnership with the Gee Creek Enhancement Committee, Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership, the City of Ridgefield, area schools, and local residents. Federal, state, and county agencies are providing advice and assistance. Additional funding sources are being sought to sustain watershed restoration work in the years ahead.
Gee Creek flows 10 miles from the hills along Interstate 5, through the City of Ridgefield and into a series of lakes on the Columbia River Floodplain and drains a watershed of 12,000 acres. Abrams Park in Ridgefield is a popular access point for Gee Creek. The lowest segment of Gee Creek meanders for 3 miles through the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. The upper portion of the watershed is currently rural-residential, but is bisected by I-5 and associated industrial development while the lower portion flows through the rapidly expanding City of Ridgefield. Recent data shows Gee Creek has poor stream health, most likely due to runoff from agricultural, developed, and residential areas. Over the past 160 years, the entire length of the creek has been subject to the combined effects of farming and urbanization. Accelerating growth will continue to change conditions in the watershed.
Clark County Clean Water Program’s Stream Health Report 2004 re Gee Creek
Clark County Stream Health Report Overview
West Slope Map
An assessment of nearby Whipple Creek – a watershed similar to Gee Creek
The Final Project Report summarizes all project activity from March, 2006 to December 31, 2009.
Identify Existing conditions
Coordinate and Prioritize needs
Conduct Public Education and Outreach
Execute Restoration Projects
Obtain Project Funding
Project Reporting & Administration
Additional directives were to build community partnerships and execute on-the-ground restoration on the Carty Unit of the RNWR.
The Watershed Coordinator worked at the RNWR in Ridgefield, Washington. Existing Gee Creek Enhancement Committee partners were engaged and the Coordinator joined and facilitated committee meetings, developed an Interim Action Plan list of potential enhancement projects, sought project funding support, and directed selected restoration projects. Partners included the USFWS Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, the Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership, the City of Ridgefield, refuge volunteers and community residents. Annual project technicians assisted with watershed restoration activities through WSU Clark County Extension, AmeriCorps, and the USFWS Student Temporary Employment Program.
Primary accomplishments and products included:
- Gee Creek Watershed Restoration Background Report 2006, summarizing land use history and restoration history
- Fish sampling conducted in lower Gee Creek 2007 – Coho and cutthroat trout found.
- GIS Analysis of watershed ponds 2008
- GIS Analysis of riparian planting sites on lower Gee Creek
- Interim Action Plan listing potential restoration projects 2006, 2007, 2008
- GIS Analysis of vegetative cover types 2008
- Stream features assessment by volunteers, Pioneer Street to mouth.
- Knotweed mapped in Gee Creek watershed by committee volunteer
- Key invasive plants mapped Refuge-wide
- Contributions made to the Refuge 15-yr Comprehensive Conservation Plan
|6||PowerPoint presentations created|
|23||Private landowner contacts/site visits|
|7||Outreach flyers and fact sheets|
|6,255||Mailing contacts to area watershed residents|
|40||Enhancement Committee meetings|
|21||Group presentations, workshops, and field trips|
|247||In-person public education contacts at outreach events|
|8,478||Trees and shrubs planted on 12 acres of Gee Creek floodplain – Ridgefield Refuge|
|780||Trees and shrubs planted on private and City land, Gee Creek watershed|
|12||Acres of plantations maintained|
|4,350||Acres surveyed for invasive plants|
|197||Acres treated for invasive plants|
The project was initiated with $123,073 of USFWS Natural Resource Damage Assessment Program funds through the Ridgefield Refuge, in addition to eight other sources funding $205,850. In addition 1,227 volunteers contributed 5,956 hours valued at $89,825.
All interim, progress, and final grant and contract reporting was produced on time.
Overview of the Gee Creek watershed looking NW
Lower Gee Creek, August 2006
Volunteers plant trees along Gee Creek on the Carty Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, November, 2006.