Project benefits fish, wildlife and human beings
By Ann McCreary
Work has been underway for several years to restore a natural floodplain on state-owned land off of the Old Twisp Highway between Winthrop and Twisp.
The community is invited to visit the site on Saturday (June 3) during a free event highlighting the connection between river restoration and recreational fishing.
“This is one of the best spots for the public to get along the river in the main part of the Methow,” said Rob Crandall of Methow Natives.
Crandall has been involved in restoring riparian habitat on the floodplain, a 40-acre site owned by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The restoration area lies across the river from the Forest Service Smokejumper Base, at 114 Old Twisp Highway, marked by an informational kiosk and parking area.
The project began several years ago with the removal of a dam that ran across the Methow River near the site. The dam was used to divert water from the Methow River for the Methow Valley Irrigation District.
In 2013, a levee that ran along the right side of the river was also removed, which allowed the river to reconnect to the historic floodplain. The 800-foot-long levee had been built in 1972 to prevent the river from flooding the area, which was cultivated for agriculture.
Large woody structures — logs, rootballs, stumps — have been installed in this stretch of the river to stabilize stream banks and provide habitat for salmon and other animals. Thousands of native plants have been planted, and trails are being developed around the site.
Interpretive signs are planned to provide information about floodplains and riparian habitats.
The site will provide a valuable way to educate the public and school students about the importance of floodplains and how they benefit fish, wildlife and people, Crandall said.
Last week, third-graders from Methow Valley Elementary School took a field trip to the floodplain to learn about the site from biologists and to plant vegetation. The children were studying floods and other natural disasters, and the floodplain field trip tied in perfectly, Crandall said.
“It used to be an agricultural field that was disconnected from the river. Before [the floodplain restoration] it would have been a dry field. Now you need boots,” he said.
Floodplains are essential because they store water by spreading out the flow of the river and slowing it down, allowing water to move down into the water table, Crandall said.
That water is slowly released back into the river during the summer and benefits fish and agriculture, he said.
The event planned for Saturday will highlight the connection between river restoration and sustainable recreational fishing.
Crandall and other restoration professionals will lead site tours and demonstrate riparian planting techniques, and local fly fishermen will teach fly casting and fly tying.
The free event takes place between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Activities begin at the top of each hour. Fly casting instruction is for ages 10 and up.
Partners in the event include WDFW, Methow Salmon, Methow Conservancy, TwispWorks, Methow Conservancy, Methow Natives, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation, Methow Fishing Adventures and North Cascades Flyfishing.
For information contact Crandall at (509) 341-4060.