OLYMPIA – Starting Aug. 4, portions of the 456-acre Stillwater wildlife unit will be closed to public access as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) begins construction on eight fish-passage projects.
The wildlife unit, located three miles north of Carnation in King County, will remain open to the public during construction, but access to those sites will be restricted to department personnel. Construction should be completed by Sept. 30.
Belinda Schuster, assistant manager of the Stillwater unit, which is part of WDFW’s larger Snoqualmie Wildlife Area, said restricted areas will be marked and project information posted on bulletin boards in each of the unit’s two parking lots. Construction warning signs also will be posted on State Route 203.
Schuster reminded the public to use extra caution during construction because large trucks will be in the area moving material and equipment to the project sites.
“Stillwater is a very popular place and we want visitors to be safe,” Schuster said. “Because this highway is particularly busy, we advise people to slow down as they approach the wildlife area.”
WDFW owns and manages the 1,956-acre Snoqualmie Wildlife Area to preserve habitat for fish and wildlife, and provide a site for outdoor recreation. The Stillwater fish-passage project will remove two dams and six culverts on tributaries of the Snoqualmie River that currently block salmon access to historic spawning and rearing habitat.
Schuster said the project is an example of the ‘landscape approach’ WDFW is undertaking on department-owned lands around the state. A landscape approach considers the full array of species and habitats in a geographic region or ecosystem and recognizes that the area’s ecological health depends on maintaining a diversity of species, she said.
“On the Stillwater unit, for instance, WDFW is engaged in a number of projects to improve biodiversity, such as fish-barrier removal, wetlands preservation, stream and riparian area enhancement, invasive weed control and seasonal bird surveys,” Schuster said.
Project proposals are developed by WDFW biologists with participation by a local citizens advisory group. Other partnerships have been formed to provide funding and plan and implement habitat enhancement projects at Stillwater, Schuster said. They include Seattle City Light, Stilly Snohomish Fisheries Enhancement Task Force (riparian plantings completed in 2008), Wild Fish Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, King County and others.
“Ultimately, the goal of WDFW and its partners is to preserve habitat and diversity so species can survive and thrive and people can have a place to enjoy them,” she said.
The Snoqualmie (Stillwater) Wildlife Area plan is available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildarea.htm