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

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October 27, 1998
Contact: Bob Everitt (425) 775-1311 ext. 118 or Jeff Weathersby, (360) 902-2256

Commission approves major salmon restoration project, interim licenses

OLYMPIA--The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission today voted 4-3 to begin the state's largest salmon wetland habitat restoration project.

The commission also adopted a three-month hunting and fishing license to cover the period Jan. 1 through March 31 next year while the Department of Fish and Wildlife moves to a new April 1-March 31 licensing cycle.

The $1.9 million Deepwater Slough project will restore more than 500 acres of the south fork of the Skagit River's delta on WDFW's Skagit Wildlife Area in Skagit County for salmon. Approximately 300 of those acres currently are diked and farmed to provide grain for waterfowl.

Some 165 acres of the wildlife area will continue to produce grain that is eaten by ducks and other waterfowl.

The salmon restoration effort, with most of the funding coming from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will improve salmon passage to upstream spawning areas. It also will open marshy rearing and wintering area for young chinook, coho and other salmon species as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout.

"This project shows the Fish and Wildlife Commission is serious about restoring habitat as a critical step in rebuilding Washington's wild salmon runs," said Lisa Pelly, the commission's chair.

Bob Everitt, who manages the Department of Fish and Wildlife's Puget Sound region, commented, "This action marks a dramatic change in the management of the delta. It has been managed to benefit waterfowl for 50 years and now we are going to help fish while continuing to support waterfowl that provide viewing and hunting opportunities."

Pelly added that in the future the commission intends to become more active in other major regional salmon habitat issues. For example, in December the commission will focus Snake River dams that impede salmon migration through the Columbia River system. Participation in the development of a funding priority list for the Bonneville Power Administration also will be a commission goal, she said.

The restored Skagit delta area will be important to chinook because the Skagit River system historically has produced Puget Sound's largest wild runs. The salmon spawn in the upper reaches of the Skagit as well as its Sauk, Suittle and Baker tributaries, many of which migrate via the Skagit's north fork. Juvenile chinook feed and find refuge in the south fork's delta area.

Two stocks of wild coho also use the Skagit River watershed.

The department will seek $584,000 from partners and state funds earmarked for fish passage as its share of the $1.9 million restoration. The rest of the money will come from the Corps of Engineers.

The restoration project is scheduled to be completed by next fall.

The commission implemented the three-month temporary license for the period during which WDFW transitions from its current annual licensing system to one that covers the period April 1 through March 31.

Residents will pay $6 for the combination license for the first three months of 1999 while non-residents would pay $30. Highlights of the new system going into effect on April 1, 1999 include:

  • Reducing paperwork by streamlining fishing licenses into three options and rolling enhancement fees into licenses. Anglers will chose between fresh or salt water licenses. A combination license also will be available
  • Streamlining hunting license and tag fees into five options
  • Lowering overall hunting and fishing costs for residents In other business, the commission classified the fisher, a rare forest carnivore, as endangered under state law.

The commission also classified pygmy whitefish and margined sculpin as "sensitive" under state law. The whitefish formerly were found in mountain lakes and streams but currently are found in only six lakes. The use of rotenone (a fish poison), the introduction of exotic fish species and declining water quality are responsible for their decline. The sculpin live in streams and have the most limited range of any fish species in Washington.