The Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Washougal will close temporarily from Aug. 8 through Sept. 30, to allow for the start of the final phase of the $32 million Steigerwald Reconnection Project.
The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership (LCEP) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) will complete the trail system, install salmon monitoring equipment, finalize floodplain habitat improvements, remove construction roads and the old parking lot, and complete interpretive message boards and benches during the temporary closure.
“The Steigerwald Reconnection Project is the largest habitat restoration project in the history of the lower Columbia River,” Chris Collins, restoration program lead for the LCEP, said in a news release. “Overall, the weather cooperated with us to accomplish this massive project, but the exceptionally wet winter and spring season wouldn’t allow us to complete all the work. We promise to work quickly and safely to complete the remaining work so people can continue to enjoy their local wildlife refuge.”
The USFW and the LCEP closed the refuge to the public in June 2020 to begin work on the restoration project and reopened it in May. No further closures are scheduled for the refuge after the final phase is completed.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service greatly appreciates the support of the community, demonstrated by the amount of use the refuge has received since the reopening in May,” Juliette Fernandez, refuge manager for the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex, said in the news release. “Over the past few months, we have talked to our community, heard your needs, and witnessed first-hand what you love most about returning to Steigerwald. This short closure will help us implement the ideas you provided to make Steigerwald an even better place to visit. We look forward to welcoming you back just in time for the winter migrations to begin.”
The project created more than 100 acres of wetland, reforested 250 acres of riparian habitat, planted more than 500,000 trees and shrubs, reconnected 965 acres of Columbia River floodplain, added 1.1 miles of trails and benefitted salmon in Gibbons Creek.
“The Steigerwald Reconnection Project is already doing an amazing job protecting businesses at the Port from flooding,” said Port of Camas-Washogual Chief Executive Officer David Ripp. “It’s also attracting people to our community to hike the trails and support our local businesses. This final, temporary closure ensures that the benefits we are already seeing will be long lasting.”