Waterwheel Creek Restoration Project
Many trout and salmon populations in the Snoqualmie watershed are declining and Puget Sound Chinook, bull trout, and steelhead are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Cherry Creek is the Snoqualmie River’s lowest major tributary; draining 27 square miles, it provides high recovery-benefit potential for ESA-listed Puget Sound Chinook and steelhead, as well as other salmonids in the Snoqualmie River. The most significant alterations to historical conditions within Cherry Creek have occurred within its floodplain, including the diking and ditching of mainstem Cherry Creek and the adjoining tributaries. This has resulted in the reduction and simplification of critical salmonid habitats within and adjacent to the WDFW Cherry Valley Wildlife Area (CVWA).
Wild Fish Conservancy’s Waterwheel Creek Restoration Project is designed to improve fish and wildlife habitat within the CVWA while maintaining or improving drainage and other infrastructure for adjacent farmland, and complementing other Wildlife Area uses including hunting, dog-training, and wildlife-watching. The project involves creating a new naturalized stream channel and riparian corridor for Waterwheel Creek, which is currently ditched across the CVWA. Dirt resulting from the channel excavation will be used to fill the three existing drainage ditches and create hummocks within the new riparian corridor. The project also includes placing woody debris within the constructed stream channel to improve fish habitat. WDFW will install a new bridge across the downstream end of Waterwheel Creek.
Abandoning the drainage ditches and creating one larger, naturalized stream channel will improve water quality and dramatically increase the amount and quality of habitat available to fish. The new channel alignment will mimic the sinuosity and condition of the likely historical conditions and, to the extent possible, will restore natural features including beaver ponds. The project is the culmination of eight years of studies, planning, and coordination between Wild Fish Conservancy, WDFW and Drainage District #7. Pending receipt of state and federal permits, construction will begin in July 2012.