The Chehalis Basin, in western Washington State, 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 occurred on an unnamed tributary to the Skookumchuck River that passed under an access road where three undersized culverts blocked coho, steelhead and searun cutthroat from accessing 4.28 miles of wide, complex wetland and stream 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 three failing, barrier culverts with a 12-foot span, 12-foot long, 4-foot high box culvert that provides a huge increase in flow capacity and provides wild fish access to critical spawning and rearing habitat upstream from the project site.
Unnamed tributary to the Skookumchuck River, Chehalis River Basin, Grays Harbor County, western Washington State
The goal of this project was to support salmon restoration by removing a fish passage barrier that will allow salmonids to migrate up and downstream to spawn and rear on habitat that is opened as a result of the removal of this barrier and replacement with a fish passable structure.
Primary Habitats Impacted By Project:
Managing Agency/ Organization:
Riparian Stream Channels
Wild Fish Conservancy
Budget or Project Cost:
Family Forest Fish Passage Grants
Landowner Fred Tobiason