The Kishon River has gotten an environmental makeover in recent years. A series of projects, including plans to dredge the river to remove pollutants, has turned the once heavily polluted waterway into a natural oasis for both residents and wildlife.

Prior to 2001, when the first efforts to improve conditions of the Kishon began, Dr. Yishayahu Bar-Or, of the Environmental Protection Ministry, described the polluted river waters as “absolutely dead — even bacteria were not able to live there, because it was more acidic than Coca Cola.”

In April of 2013, a Canadian company, EnGlobe, was awarded $60 million to dredge the riverbed and remove over 30 years of toxic sludge that had accumulated in the soil, polluting the waters and killing fish and other animals dependent on the stream.

“The dream of restoring the Kishon is becoming a reality,” then Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said when the large scale remediation plan, and next phase of Kishon’s renewal, was announced. “Soon the public will be able to sail, fish, and relax on the banks of the Kishon, and enjoy a river that belongs first of all to the citizens.”

Now, even before the project is complete, it appears wildlife are already returning to the Kishon. In addition to a growing number of fish and turtles that have come back to the reclaimed waters, sea birds have claimed the water’s edges as their home.

This year, 4,000 seabirds have decided to take up residence on the banks of the river during the winter migration. The birds, or large cormorants, have been flocking the Kishon in record numbers during the last three years, evidence the once-polluted Kishon is returning to life.

“Alongside the cormorants at the streambed are many water birds – including herons, river kingfishers, ibis and redshanks,” Sharon Nissim, head of the Kishon River Authority, said.

“The Kishon has proven time and again that it is a major birding site in Israel,” Nissim added stressing that in addition to the dredging efforts, the final stages of the Kishon river makeover will involve a birding center and ecological park to help the people of Israel enjoy the restored natural habitats on the banks of the Kishon.