The Water Resources Education Center is caretaker to one the metropolitan area's few remaining natural Columbia River riparian areas - nearly 50 acres of protected wetlands that represent some of the most significant and fragile natural resources within the region.
The wetlands, adjacent to the Water Center, also provide a natural classroom where adults and youth can learn about ecosystem protection and restoration. The Water Center hosts student and adult groups who visit the site for educational discovery, as well as students whose service learning projects help in our ongoing restoration, maintenance and monitoring efforts.
These wetlands are important to our community and to the creatures who feed, nest and rest there.
Off-channel wetlands provide habitat for all Columbia basin salmon stocks at some period in their life cycle as they make there way to estuarine habitat. The loss of wetland habitat in the lower Columbia River and estuary has been well documented. According to the Subbasin Summary by the Northwest Power Planning Council, 2001, some 20,000 acres of tidal swamps, 10,000 acres of tidal marshes, and 3,000 acres of tidal flats have been lost by diking, dredging, and filling.
Several species of salmon in the Columbia River system have been listed under the Endangered Species Act, including Lower Columbia River fall and spring Chinook, Upper Columbia River spring Chinook, Columbia River Chum, Upper and Lower Columbia River steelhead, Upper Willamette River Chinook and steelhead, and Snake River sockeye.
The current populations of Chum salmon below Bonneville Dam and Interstate 205/Steamboat Landing have continued to grow in size and viability, which in-turn helps in the recovery of the species in the Lower Columbia River. Chum fry have been identified as using the Water Center wetlands area as rearing habitat. Because of its close proximity to a large Chum spawning area just upstream of the I-205 Bridge, it is the first off-channel rearing habitat available for juvenile salmonids to move out of the main channel and seek refuge.
The wetland is also an important perching and foraging habitat for various hawk species and bald eagles. There is currently a bald eagle nesting site within the wetland and an osprey nest east of the wetland.