WENATCHEE -- Hundreds of men, women, and children will be planting 7,000 willows, roses, and other green, budding stems this week along Brender Creek near Cashmere and Blackbird Island on the Wenatchee River near Leavenworth.
The effort isn't just another spring planting party to pretty up the local area.
It's one of the final touches of a cooperative multi-year project to help recover endangered chinook salmon and steelhead trout, says Bob Steele, a habitat biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in Wenatchee.
"We're going to have fun, too," says Steele, "because we've got everyone from school kids to city officials invited to help. But this planting party will provide seriously needed shade, food, cover, and clean water for fish."
Steele explained that budding stems of black cottonwood, red osier dogwood, scours, coyote and pacific willow, water birch, woods and nootka rose, and snowberry will be planted in the "riparian" or streamside areas of both sites. Over time, the plants will shade the waterways to keep water temperatures cooler for salmon and steelhead.
As they grow they'll provide organic material that is food for insects, which are food for fish. Their roots will stabilize the banks to prevent soil erosion and keep the water cleaner with less sediment. And when parts of them eventually fall into the waterways, the woody debris will provide fish hiding spots and other cover.
The Brender Creek site, behind the old Cashmere mill site on Mill Road, will be planted Thursday, March 29, starting at 9 a.m. Blackbird Island planting will be conducted Friday, March 30, starting at 10 a.m.
The project began several years ago as a joint effort between WDFW and the Icicle Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited. It is designed to restore damaged or altered salmon and steelhead habitat, and to create new habitat, within the Wenatchee River drainage and others within Chelan County and the upper Columbia River system.
Brender Creek was chosen because it had a long history of alteration and abuse, Steele said, and because it still holds small numbers of both juvenile spring Chinook salmon and summer steelhead trout. About $55,000 in state Regional Fishery Enhancement Group (RFEG) and Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) grants were secured to re-establish unhindered fish passage to the lower creek, reduce stream erosion and sedimentation, clean up old mill wastes and other man-made spoils, provide new in-stream spawning and rearing areas, and restore previously damaged shoreline through planting.
Blackbird Island is a new fish habitat creation project, Steele said. Salmon and steelhead habitat has been artificially created by digging a half-mile groundwater-fed, fish-rearing channel and several rearing ponds adjacent and draining to the Wenatchee River. About $265,000 in SRFB grants have been used to create the habitat, including an extensive spring high flow and flood refuge area and new aquatic food production and shade zones.
Last fall both areas were hydro-seeded with native sedges, rushes, and wetland grasses. Brender Creek was also hydro-seeded with upland plants. This week ‘s plantings put the final touch on the projects.
Students from the Wenatchee, Eastmont, Cashmere, and Leavenworth school districts have been invited to the planting party, as have officials from those city governments. Trout Unlimited local members will also be on hand, as will volunteers from the Mission-Brender-Yaksum Creek Watershed Group, Chelan County Conservation District, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the Yakama Nation.
Steele notes that past efforts at the two sites have also included help from Longview Fiber, Cashmere Mill, and other local businesses, groups, and individuals.
*( News media interested in on-site coverage: Contact Bob Steele, 509-662-0503, for specific directions and maps to these sites for Thursday, March 29, and Friday, March 30, work parties.)