By Cara Mico, Assistant Editor
The Tillamook Bay Estuaries Partnership (TEP) is a 501(c)(3) with the mission of the conservation and restoration of Tillamook County’s watersheds through active stewardship, scientific inquiry, community engagement, and education. TEP serves Tillamook County’s four estuaries, including the Tillamook Bay, through education, outreach, and habitat restoration and monitoring.
TEP’s work includes a nationally recognized water quality monitoring program, fish habitat restoration and reconnection, a Backyard Planting Program working with nearly 100 private landowners, the Tillamook County Water Trail, and a native plant nursery that provides native stock for coastal restoration projects. And there’s more big, exciting projects “in the works.”
They focus on targeted actions to improve water quality, stop habitat loss and simplification, erosion and sedimentation, and mitigate flooding impacts. In 2021 alone TEP helped to restore over 6 miles of instream fish habitat. In the last 20 years, TEP has replaced dozens of fish passage barriers with fish friendly culverts and bridges, planted miles of riparian habitat, and purchased several properties for conservation.
Between 2015 and 2020, TEP accomplished 205 projects, acquired 8 properties, restored habitat quality and access to 127 miles of stream, and completed 76 enhancement projects for a total cost of $31,539,844.
“For every EPA dollar spent on restoration, about $6 more is brought into the community, and this money is primarily spent locally,” said Deputy Director Claudine Rehn.
It was recently announced that TEP will receive $625,000 for Climate Change Monitoring Instruments. “This funding will enable Tillamook Estuaries Partnership to purchase the instruments and equipment needed to monitor ocean acidification and dissolved oxygen in all five of our estuaries; flooding patterns and carbon sequestration in natural and restored wetlands; water temperatures in upland salmon-bearing rivers and streams; and other water quality and quantity parameters essential to wildlife and our way of life,” said Kristi Foster, PhD, Executive Director, Tillamook Estuaries Partnership. “The information we collect will help us understand local climate impacts and prioritize adaptive, resilient green infrastructure and nature-based projects that enhance the health of our iconic estuaries, environment, and rural communities.”
While most of these projects were focused on repairing historical damage, upcoming projects are also going to be looking at the long-term impacts of climate change. The north coast is projected to experience a warming of 4–7 degrees Fahrenheit during the next 50 years which is already resulting in warmer, wetter winters and drier summers, so habitat preservation and restoration is increasingly important.
That’s why programs like TEP’s Backyard Planting Program are essential. In 4 short years, TEP was able to restore over 10 miles and almost 65 acres by partnering with 32 landowners. Future funding is going to allow TEP to monitor the impact of their projects on instream temperature specifically regarding climate change.
TEP also strongly focuses on education with programs like the Clean Water Festival where volunteers lead Tillamook County’s 4th graders through a series of activities during an experiential field trip where students flow through the watershed as water droplets and explore local wetlands identifying aquatic insects and plants. TEP also supports Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) through their STEM vision where all Tillamook County students have equal access to high-quality, hands-on, inquiry-based STEAM field and classroom programs.
“We’re seeing second generation participants come back to our education programs with their kids,” said Jesse Kane, TEP’s Community Education & Engagement Coordinator.
TEP is hosting their 2022 Bounty of the Bays Gala on September 24 at Pacific Restaurant located on Main Avenue in downtown Tillamook. The Silent Auction will take place virtually from September 12-18, 2022. TEP is currently looking for sponsors to support food, beverage, and silent auction items. The gala, like the auction, will feature local foods and drink, as well as arts and crafts. Tickets for the Gala will go on sale at the beginning of September.
If you would like to get involved or want more information please contact Kristi Foster by phone at 503-322-2222 or email at email@example.com.