River Network buys land on last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River
U.S. Water News Online
HANFORD REACH, Wash. -- River Network, a national river conservation organization, has announced it has purchased one of the last privately owned properties on the Hanford Reach, the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River. The 78-acre property adjoins a national wildlife refuge on the 51-mile Hanford Reach, renowned as the most productive spawning area for Chinook salmon in the lower 48 states.
River Network negotiated the purchase at the request of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which asked for help in acquiring the property for habitat protection after learning of the owner's intent to sell. The federal agency was concerned that development or mining of the property could degrade spawning habitat in the river.
The land was purchased from Ms. Dawn Dodge of Boulder, Colorado, whose family had owned the property since the mid-1800s. "We intend to convey the land to the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which will in turn exchange it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," said Ms. Dodge. Sue Doroff, director of River Network's land conservancy program, said the land will be protected as part of the Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge.
Nearly all of the Columbia River has been converted to reservoir pools except for the segment passing through the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in eastern Washington state. As a result, the 51 undammed miles of the Hanford Reach, from Priest Rapids Dam downstream to McNary Reservoir, are critical Columbia river spawning habitat for fall Chinook salmon. Up to 90 percent of the 530,000 salmon harvested in 1989 were spawned in the Hanford Reach area.
A 1994 Nature Conservancy study found tremendous biological diversity on the Hanford Reach, including 205 species of birds and populations of ten endangered plants species. The study concluded that the site is "a vital -- and perhaps the single most important -- link in preserving and sustaining the biodiversity of the Columbia Basin's shrub-steppe region."
Numerous wildlife depend on the site as well as millions of
migrating birds, including wintering bald eagles and most of the
world's population of federally endangered Lesser Sandhill Cranes,
according to River Network.
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