Methow Water Quality Restoration Program
Restoration & Monitoring
The Methow River watershed has undergone significant anthropogenic alteration over the past century as numerous impacts stemming from agricultural and urban development have acted in conjunction with inherent natural variation to reduce instream flow, limit channel functionality and reduce the extent and availability of riparian vegetation.
Recently, stream temperature – a critical component of native fish habitat – has increased to levels potentially detrimental to the threatened and endangered salmonids present in the Methow. Increased temperature and correlated decreases in dissolved oxygen can negatively influence salmonid productivity by limiting growth, reducing metabolic rates, increasing susceptibility to disease and predation while creating thermal barriers to migration.
These elevated temperatures have triggered Washington State 303(d) (Clean Water Act) listings for the Methow River and a major tributary, the Chewuch River. These listings necessitate a temperature Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study for the Methow River which, at this time, has not been conducted.
Usually, TMDLs are costly studies that identify the agents responsible for the water quality impairments and set forth a list a recommended steps necessary to reduce the impacts and levels of certain water quality parameters, such as temperature. Yet, DOE has reached the conclusion that in many instances the recommendations from various TMDL studies call for a similar suite of remedies, such as riparian revegetation to provide shade that assists with stream water temperature reduction. DOE has recently developed a “straight to implementation” approach which avoids the costly TMDL study and devotes that funding to the types of projects that would have been recommended by the TMDL.
The three year project will address water quality problems through the development of a clean water strategy that involves implementation of projects that will reduce water temperatures and eventually meet water quality standards. These projects will include floodplain and side channel restoration and riparian revegetation that are a component of a coordinated effort to address habitat limiting factors in the Methow subbasin.
The project will also develop a basinwide monitoring program to assess the effectiveness of the restoration efforts at improving water quality, especially temperature. Additionally, the project will assist with the on-going effort, spearheaded by the MRC, to develop a more extensive and active public outreach and education program in the Methow.
Goals & Objectives:
1. Re-establish riparian buffers in the Methow watershed
2. Reduce water temperatures to maximize benefits to ESA-listed salmonids
3. Monitor and adaptively manage projects
4. Implement a thoughtful outreach and education program
Primary Habitats Impacted By Project:
Riparian and instream temperature
Town of Twisp
Budget or Project Cost:
$557,000 – Phase 1
$187,500 – Phase 2
- WA Department of Ecology
- Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation
- Town of Twisp