The Chehalis Basin is Washington’s second largest river system, home to some of the state’s most important salmon rivers and one of the only major basins without any federally-listed endangered salmon. At the same time, salmon runs within the basin are returning at a fraction of their historical abundances, with fish passage barriers and other habitat loss representing one of many causes for this decline.
The project area included a tributary to the Skookumchuck River, that passed under a small logging road where an undersized, failing, culvert blocked coho, cutthroat, and other native fishes from accessing 1.22 miles of vital stream and wetland habitat. By interrupting habitat connectivity, even a single barrier can have a disproportionately large impact on the abundance and resiliency of wild fish populations.
Man-made barriers to fish migration have significant impacts on wild fish; limiting distribution, reducing access to spawning and rearing habitats, and disrupting the spatial habitat complexity historically available to fish populations. Whether for resident species that spend their entire lives in one watershed, or migratory species that travel thousands of miles, instream barriers compromise a populations’ ability to weather environmental uncertainties. Evolutionary fitness of the entire population is weakened when barriers restrict gene flow, creating small, isolated sub-groups that can suffer from inbreeding.
The Family Forest Fish Passage Program (FFFPP) assists private forestland owners in removing culverts and other stream crossing structures that prevent ESA listed salmonids from migrating upstream. Through the management of DNR’s Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office some 376 landowners have taken advantage of the program to remove 433 barriers since 2003.
Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) staff replaced the failing 2-foot culvert with a 15-foot wide concrete bridge that provided a huge increase in flow capacity and provided wild salmonids access to critical spawning and rearing habitat upstream from the project site.
Tributary to the Skookumchuck River in the Chehalis Basin
The goal of this project was to improve access to both upstream and downstream habitat for salmonids to increase fish populations in this watershed. This was accomplished by replacing an existing fish passage barrier with a new structure that provided unimpeded passage to both upstream and downstream habitat.
Primary Habitats Impacted By Project:
Managing Agency/ Organization:
Riparian Stream Channels
Wild Fish Conservancy
Budget or Project Cost:
Family Forest Fish Passage Grants
Landowner Darrell Jensen