YAKIMA VALLEY -- Efforts by state fisheries biologists here to turn three ponds
adjacent to Interstate 82 into areas where fish and wildlife can thrive will get a boost this
weekend from local volunteers.
Members of a boy scout troop and church group will join Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife employees on Saturday to plant more than 300, six-
foot black cottonwood trees along the shorelines of the ponds.
The fast-growing trees, which are native to the valley, will provide the overhead
cover and woody debris needed to improve habitat for both fish and wildlife in and
around the ponds. The ponds are managed as part of the department's Sunnyside
"We're very thankful for the efforts of all the volunteers involved in this project to
reclaim and rehabilitate these ponds for fish and wildlife," said Department of Fish and
Wildlife Director Bern Shanks.
"At a time when habitat throughout the state of Washington is rapidly being
destroyed or altered for development and other purposes, projects such as this take on
an added importance," Shanks added.
The pond improvement project is part of a ongoing program by the Department
of Fish and Wildlife to improve and expand opportunities for anglers who fish for
warmwater species such as bass, channel catfish and perch.
The statewide program, which includes habitat improvements as well as the
acquisition of new waterways and the construction of fishing docks and piers, is being
funded in part by money derived from warmwater fishing license sales, said Keith Wolf,
who manages the department's fish operations in the Yakima Valley. There are
400,000 licensed warmwater anglers in Washington state.
Eric Anderson, the state fisheries biologist in charge of the pond project, said the
ponds actually are reclaimed gravel pits which were created in the 1970s when the
interstate was built. Located about five miles southeast of Yakima, the ponds range in
size from 15 to 25 acres each and are known by locals as the I-82 ponds.
Last year, 100 apple trees were used to create 33 artificial fish reefs in two of the
ponds. The trees, donated by a local orchardist who had cut them down because they
were no longer productive, were lashed together with steel cable and then placed
offshore in 10- to 20-feet of water, Anderson said.
Anderson said planting cottonwoods around the three ponds presents a special
challenge because beavers reside in the area. To protect the young trees from the
animals, three-foot-high metal cages will be erected around the trunks of the trees.
"Once the trees become mature, we don't mind if an occasional one falls victim
to beavers," Anderson said. "Any felled trees will simply add to creating a more natural
Already, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has planted yellow perch and
largemouth bass in the ponds, providing some good fishing opportunities for anglers. In
the future, crappie, bluegill and channel catfish will be added.
"We expect these ponds to provide some excellent habitat for a number of
warmwater fish species," Anderson said. "But we also expect the habitat improvements
to attract and provide for various wildlife species such as waterfowl, wood ducks and