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

February 17, 1998
Contact: Margaret Ainscough, (360) 902-2408

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Regional volunteers restore salmon habitat

OLYMPIA -- Twelve regional volunteer groups working under the direction of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have completed 160 projects to improve salmon habitat in the past year.

The non-profit, volunteer Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups (RFEG) received $460,000 in state funds during the 1997 fiscal year. An additional $2.8 million in contributions and donations was generated, for a 1-to-6 match. Those donations include 37,155 hours of volunteer time.

Habitat improvements accounted for more than three-quarters of the groups' expenses. Fish production projects comprised another 16 percent of costs. The fisheries enhancement groups were started by the Legislature in 1991 to involve citizens in salmon and steelhead enhancement projects including habitat restoration, fish production, research and outreach work.

"Volunteers are essential to restoring wild salmon and their habitat in Washington," said WDFW Director Bern Shanks. "Thousands of people dedicate energy and effort to Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups. We're seeing the results on the ground. Citizens can and do make a difference in saving salmon."

Approximately 17 miles of salmon streams statewide have been improved by the enhancement groups' efforts. The volunteers replaced badly designed culverts that block fish passage, built fences to keep livestock out of streams, planted trees and shrubs for erosion control, added gravel to spawning beds and created ponds for over- wintering fish. Besides the habitat projects the groups also incubated or released 4.7 million salmon eggs or fish.

Some projects were undertaken in partnership with tribes, conservation districts or other state agencies.

The groups work with WDFW biologists who provide technical assistance. The volunteer groups, which range in size up to 250 members, include students, fishing enthusiasts and senior citizens.

Examples of enhancement projects in various areas of the state during the 1997 fiscal year include:

  • Restoration of a 1,600-foot spawning channel on the Grays River (Wahkiakum County) in the lower Columbia River area. The old channel, which had been blocked with silt from a flood several years ago, was cleaned by local high school students, scout troops and other community groups, along with displaced fishers who are working on the project through a Wahkiakum Conservation District grant. Residents of the Naselle Youth Camp cleaned gravel by hand for the project. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also provided part of the funding for the $11,893 project.
  • Extension of a highly successful spawning area for salmon returning to the North River in Pacific County. The $65,781 project, which is ongoing, will extend by two-thirds the length of a spawning channel built by landowner Fred March 15 years ago. The channel, which is protected from scouring floods, has allowed such a high rate of egg and juvenile salmon survival that returns in recent years have exceeded capacity of the original channel. The project will add 1,200 feet to the channel and improve access.
  • A large-scale habitat restoration effort on Swale Creek, a tributary to the Klickitat River. The $95,519 project, which is being sponsored by the Yakama Indian Nation, includes replanting along two miles of creek, reconstructing wetlands and purchasing conservation easements, constructing three sediment retention ponds, improving grazing management along six miles of creek and long-term monitoring of the restored sites.
  • Restoring fish passage to the upper watershed of Hillside Creek in Lake Forest Park, north of Seattle, by relocating the stream from a 600-foot culvert under Brookside Elementary School to a 800-foot above-ground channel that skirts the school's southern boundary. The $45,500 project was completed in cooperation with the city of Lake Forest Park.
For information on Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups call Kent Dimmitt at (360) 902-2237.