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Field Season Wrap-up: Woods Creek Watertyping

Woods 1Earlier this year, Wild Fish Conservancy field crews geared up for an extensive water typing survey on Woods Creek, a tributary to the Skykomish River near Monroe in Snohomish County, WA. From early March to late June, our field crews surveyed many of the small streams feeding into the Woods Creek basin, identifying their classification and describing fish species composition and distribution. The crews collected more than 900 data points, each with numerous photos and a unique description of the stream’s habitat, flora, and fauna. The information gathered is now being digitized into a database that will be added to our geographic information system (GIS). When finalized later this year, WFC will provide the project results to state and local government resource managers so they can make better-informed decisions to protect sensitive stream habitats.

Since 1994, WFC has been preforming stream surveys throughout western Washington. During our time in the field, we have found that the official state stream maps are often inaccurate and underestimate the actual miles of fish-bearing waters. Woods Creek was no exception. Where we had access within the watershed we found 25 miles of previously unmapped stream channels, and 5.6 miles of streams mapped by DNR that did not exist. We also discovered large discrepancies in channel location and stream classification.

In Snohomish County, waters classified as F (fish habitat) receive a buffer of 150 feet while N streams (non-fish habitat) receive a buffer of 50 feet. The importance of accurate mapping becomes very evident when taking these buffers into consideration.

It is because of these unmapped and incorrectly classified streams that WFC believes watertyping is essential to protecting habitats that would otherwise be overlooked. State and local governments in Washington are charged with Woods Creek 3protecting streams from adverse impacts associated with adjacent land-use activities. Often, the government agencies evaluating land use permits fall short in protecting our resources simply because they are relying on inaccurate maps.

With the cooperation of more than 200 private land owners, WFC was able to access and survey large portions of the tributaries feeding into Woods Creek, bringing to hand numerous coho, cutthroat trout and rainbow trout in previously undocumented streams. It is our hope that the watertyping surveys and subsequent mapping will help guide Snohomish County and Washington State as they  move forward with responsible forestry, development, and land use planning.

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