Funds would mitigate erosion of Methow River
The Yakama Nation and Town of Twisp are partnering on a request for a state grant that would be used to mitigate persistent flooding and riverbank erosion problems along the Methow River at the town’s northern limits.
As proposed, the $5.7 million project would apply to just over 9 acres — all within the town limits and currently under private ownership — that would be acquired and converted to a managed flood plain to help control the erosion encroachments. Assuming a state grant comes through, the project would have a targeted completion date of 2026.
The project would include the removal of nine existing structures including the Community Covenant Church, which has suffered significant loss of riverbank property due to erosion. Private development in the affected area would henceforth be prohibited. The acquired properties would become part of adjacent town-owned public land.
The grant application, which will be prepared by the Yakama Nation Upper Columbia Habitat Restoration Project with the town’s endorsement, will be submitted to the state Department of Ecology under that agency’s “Floodplains by Design” program.
The Twisp Town Council heard a presentation about the grant application at its Jan. 11 meeting from Hans Smith, the Twisp-based Upper Columbia Habitat Coordinator for the Yakama Nations Fisheries Resource Management Program.
Smith also happens to be a Twisp Town Council member, but at last week’s meeting he was acting in his professional capacity and recused himself from discussing or voting on the proposal as a council member.
Funding is not certain and any action is years away even if funds are approved. The Yakama Nation project would be part of Ecology’s 2023-25 legislative funding cycle, and as such a list of grants recommended for funding in that cycle would be released in August of this year after all requests are reviewed in February.
Legislative budget allocations for approved projects will be announced in July 2023, and work on the project could begin later that year including the initiation of agreements with affected landowners.
The grant proposal follows on flooding problems dating back to 2017 and 2018 that eroded about 100 feet of riverbank toward developed private lands within the existing FEMA-defined floodplain hazard area, including Community Covenant Church property. The erosion also tore away a section of the newly built Twisp trail in the town park.
“Since that time, out of a concern for the likelihood of future significant flood-induced conflicts occurring within these develop area, the town of Twisp began actively engaging landowners and regional agency stakeholders to determine if there were potentially creative ways stakeholders could work together to develop positive solutions to the emerging flood and erosion threats,” Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody wrote in a supporting letter to Ecology.
According to a draft pre-grant application that Smith reviewed with the council, goals of the mitigation project include restoration of salmon habitat, protection of lives and property within the affected area, and to forestall construction of other less-effective — and possibly harmful — flood-protection measures. The project would also improve public access for hiking, bird watching, fishing and other river-related activities, according to the document.
According to the document, in 2018 private stakeholders met with representatives of a wide variety of local, state and federal agencies to discuss the flooding and erosion threats. Some limited interim measures were considered. “However, it was again recommended that working with salmon restoration programs should be considered for long-term solutions,” the document said.
According to the document, the project, if approved for funding, will continue to involve the participation of all affected government agencies as well as the town and the affected private property owners.
Twisp Public Works Director Andrew Denham, who pointed out that the town doesn’t have the resources to take on such an ambitious project, said he was “excited about the potential as a solution. … It’s a best-case scenario for all the stakeholders.’
“It’s a tough location with not a lot of good options,” Smith said of the project area.
Affected properties are all between State Highway 20 on the west and the Methow River on the east, between the north town limits (adjacent to the 1890s Side Channel Restoration), and the Idle A While motel area on the south.
The 1890s Side Channel Restoration, completed in 2014, restored a channel that historically ran along the valley wall parallel to Highway 20 north of Twisp. It is intended to provide prime habitat for juvenile salmon. The channel passes under a bridge over Highway 20 just north of the Twisp town limits.
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.
The Upper Columbia Habitat Restoration Project gets its principal funding through the Columbia Basin Fish Accords. Its intent is to implement science-based habitat restoration benefiting spring Chinook and steelhead on priority streams and river reaches within the Methow, Entiat and Wenatchee subbasins.