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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


March 13, 1997
Contact: Eric Anderson (509) 457-9301 or Tim Waters (206)775-1311, ext. 119

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Local volunteers lend hands to improve fish, wildlife habitat

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 Wildlife Area.

"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 environment."

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 songbirds."