Restoration begins at sites on Methow, Chewuch rivers
Three salmon habitat restoration projects are slated to take place on the Methow and Chewuch rivers this summer as part of the Yakama Nation Fisheries Upper Columbia Habitat Restoration Project.
The projects are going forward in partnership with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Two of the projects are on the Methow River and will be accessed through the Golden Doe Wildlife Area and include about a mile of river on WDFW property. The area is about 4.5 miles south of Twisp.
The more upstream of the two projects involves placing large logs with their root wads in and around the water along the river to increase habitat. The downstream project is intended to restore a side channel of the river near Alder Creek.
“Both of these projects will re-establish complex habitats by adding nearly 300 pieces of wood to the mainstem river and side channels,” Yakama Nation Fisheries wrote to the Methow Valley News.
The third project is on the Chewuch River 4 miles north of Winthrop on WDFW-managed land and is intended to reconnect a side channel and place wood in the area to create habitat.
Both areas will also be replanted with native plants after the projects are completed, likely in September or October.
“For example, in an area where we anticipate wetlands will become established following the construction, we’re planting dogwood, alder, and cottonwoods,” Yakama Nation Fisheries wrote. “All of these plants will be protected with fencing or caging for five years following construction to prevent deer and other animals from browsing the new plantings before they are well established.”
The projects focus on repairing habitat for Upper Columbia spring Chinook and Upper Columbia steelhead, which are listed as endangered and threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, respectively.
Juvenile fish of both species spend at least one year in the river before migrating to the ocean.
“Floodplain habitat is typically where the most abundant food resources are, and conditions are optimal for maximizing juvenile growth before they head downstream,” Yakama Nation Fisheries wrote to the Methow Valley News. “In recent decades, large wood has been removed from the river, and many river banks have been riprapped, straightening the river channel and cutting off floodplain habitats.”
Logging, mining, river clearing, floodplain development, artificial bank protection and levee construction have all contributed to damage to habitat for these species.
“In general, the types of historical habitat conditions that once supported productive growth and survival of critical anadromous fish life stages in the Methow River have been degraded over the past 100 years by human induced disturbance and development,” Yakama Fisheries wrote. “These projects seek to emulate and re-establish beneficial natural river processes that create and sustain more complex juvenile fish habitats in order to boost the ecosystem productivity for fish growth and survival, especially during the periods of highest fish stress.”
Tree trunks with attached root wads are currently waiting to be placed in the Methow River locations, and are being stored near the Golden Doe Wildlife Area of Twisp-Carlton Road. The logs come from mills and private properties in central and North Eastern Washington, according to Yakama Nation Fisheries.
Climate change is also a threat, as is extreme fire seasons.
“Part of the intent of our project actions is to increase the resilience of available productive fish habitats to the future stresses of climate change to prevent salmon extinction,” Yakama Nation Fisheries wrote.