Habitat - Fish Passage Technical Assistance
Date Published: August 2012
Number of Pages: 248
Author(s): Damon Romero and Susan Cierebiej
Like Washington’s State Parks, it is recognized that salmon and trout are symbols of the natural outdoor environment we live in and are valued by the citizens of the State of Washington. In addition, vigorous populations of salmonids are important for healthy, functioning ecosystems because of the interdependence of vast numbers of fauna and flora. Many occupants of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems depend on salmonids for food. Most emphatically, endangered species including salmonids present imposing arguments to maintain and manage wild species on an integrated basis.
Fish passage at human-made instream barriers, such as road crossings, is one of the most recurrent and correctable obstacles to healthy salmonid stocks in Washington. In some cases, many miles of quality salmonid spawning and rearing habitat have been blocked by a single barrier culvert. Washington State parks recognizes that it can play a critical role in salmonid recovery by providing fish passage, since many State parks have fish bearing streams with high quality habitat within the park boundaries.
Currently there is pending litigation which involves culverts on State-owned land within Water Resource Inventory Area’s (WRIA’s) 1-23. The culvert case is a Federal court sub-proceeding of U.S. versus Washington, with the United States and 21 American Indian tribes as the plaintiffs, and the State of Washington as the defendant. As a landowning agency, Washington State Parks is joined by Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), Washington Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in this culvert case. In 2007, Federal District Court Judge Martinez agreed with the tribes that state owned barriers to fish passage reduce the amount of harvest available to the tribes and are therefore a breach of the tribes’ treaty rights. A decision is still pending to determine what remedy should be awarded to the tribes regarding the state-owned barrier culverts. However, State Parks and the other State agencies continue moving forward in a good faith effort to correct fish passage barriers.
In 2008, the Washington State Parks Commission (Parks) and contracted with WDFW to conduct a fish passage inventory and associated habitat assessments on State Park lands, in order to identify and prioritize fish passage barriers for future correction. The inventory focused on fish bearing streams in WRIA’s 1-23, within the culvert case area, since those fish passage barriers are a high priority for correction by Parks. This inventory was funded by the Washington State Legislature, who understands that inventories, prioritization, and correction of fish passage barriers are part of the overall strategy to recover salmonid populations.
This report summarizes the fish passage inventory and prioritization work conducted.
For this report, a fish passage structure is referred to as a site. The structure at that site is referred to as a feature. Instream features affecting fish passage include culverts, dams, fishways, and other features.