Oregon Shores Launches Eelgrass Project

Eelgrass bed meets mudflat in Coos Bay.\Photo by Mike Graybill.

We work to protect a wide range of coastal habitats, from watersheds to offshore reefs.  But no resource we work on is more important than the state’s estuaries.  A critical component of estuarine ecosystems is eelgrass.  Oregon Shores is committed to preserving the remaining eelgrass habitat in our estuaries, and encouraging efforts to restore it.

We’ve taken the first major step in this direction by developing a “primer” on eelgrass, which provides background on the nature of this resource and a guide for citizens willing to get involved in protecting it.  To see or download the guide, go here.

The primer was created with support from both the City of Coos Bay, and Pew Charitable Trusts.  Primary author is Anu Sawkar of the Crag Law Center, our partner in the Coastal Law Project.

The next step is to focus on estuary management plans (EMPs).  Cities and counties with estuaries in their jurisdictions have EMPs, which are folded into their comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances.  These plans were drafted long ago; we have learned a great deal about both estuarine ecology and the coming impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise, since then. 

The Oregon Coastal Management Program, a branch of the Department of Land Conservation and Development, is just getting started on a review of EMPs throughout the coastal region, working in conjunction with local jurisdictions.  First up is Yaquina Bay, which will be used as a pilot project, from which a process will be developed to guide reviewing and revising other estuaries.  Coos County has also been in the process of updating its estuary management plan, and has listed the Coos Bay EMP update as a planning project for 2021.

Oregon Shores will be working with our members and other citizens in each area, beginning with Yaquina Bay, to assure that eelgrass and other essential estuarine habitats are better protected in the new set of estuary plans, and to advocate for restoration of eelgrass habitat where it has diminished.

If interested in working on estuary management plans, contact Phillip Johnson, (503) 754-9303, phillip@oregonshores.org.