WDFW will use drone to monitor Smith Creek restoration project near Willapa Bay

Scientists and certified drone pilots with the State Department of Fish and Wildlife will fly a drone over the Smith Creek restoration project located near Willapa Bay in Pacific County on Monday.

The drone will provide baseline footage of the project area, which will be used to document changes in water channels and how tidal flows are returning to wetlands after the fish-passage project is completed. The project is designed to open up to 6.5 miles of high-quality habitat for fish, according to a Fish and Wildlife statement.

Habitat biologist Lauren Bauernschmidt said the drone will be flown between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. for approximately 60 to 90 minutes. Fish and Wildlife works to keep the public informed of drone activity to reduce the chance of interrupting people recreating or working in the area.

The project involves the removal of tide gates and putting up a bridge at the project location on Parpala Road north of Naselle, said Bauernschmidt. The project was originally slated for this year, but permitting delays mean construction will begin next summer, she said. The Pacific County Conservation District received State Salmon Recovery Funding Board money for the project, which will cost a little over $1 million to complete.