By Ann McCreary
Work is underway on restoring a historic side channel of the Methow River, which will provide salmon habitat when it is completed this fall.
Crews have been excavating the lower end of the side channel to create a downstream connection to the Methow River. The channel passes under a bridge over Highway 20 just north of Twisp town limits.
Groundwater will feed the side channel about a mile further upstream, collected in a perforated pipe system and conveyed via a buried pipe to provide year-round flow.
The project, called the “1890s Side Channel Restoration,” restores a channel that historically ran along the valley wall parallel to Highway 20 north of Twisp. It will provide prime habitat for juvenile salmon, said Hans Smith, habitat biologist for the Yakama Nation Fisheries and manager of the project.
Since breaking ground about three weeks ago, work has focused on excavating about 40,000 cubic yards out of the channel and placing it in a depression in a field on the nearby Walking D Ranch, Smith said. The field will then be reseeded.
Once the channel is fully excavated, logs and wood will be placed in it to create pools for the salmon, and native riparian vegetation will be planted along the banks.
When the pipe at the head of the channel is in place, water may be brought into the channel this fall.
The restored channel runs through private property under agreements with the property owners, Smith said.
The Yakama Nation Fisheries developed the $3 million project with funding from the Bonneville Power Administration under the Columbia Basin Fish Accords, an agreement among federal agencies, tribes and states to promote salmon recovery.