Restoring the North Fork Touchet River
In 2022, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation completed the third summer of construction to improve habitat for summer steelhead trout, spring Chinook salmon, and bull trout in the North Fork Touchet River near Dayton. Working with several private landowners, the tribes used several techniques to improve habitat in the stream and its floodplain. Construction crews built log and boulder structures to encourage pool formation and provide overhead cover for fish, set back levees that previously confined the river, and replaced a bridge with a longer span to allow the river to engage with its newly broadened floodplain.
Projects that reconnect rivers with their floodplains are important salmon recovery tools. These are often complex, challenging projects because floodplains throughout Washington have been modified to provide agricultural, residential, commercial, and industrial benefits to society.
In this case, grants and innovative partnerships combined to improve salmon and steelhead habitat while increasing climate resilience, reducing flood risk, and protecting agricultural uses.
Encompassing 3 miles of the North Fork Touchet River, the project reconnected 44 acres of floodplain with the river, planted 32 acres with native trees and shrubs, built nearly 2 miles of levee to protect adjacent farms, and placed 192 large wood structures and logs in the river to create habitat for fish. The tribes secured major grants through the Bonneville Power Administration, Department of Ecology’s Floodplains by Design program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, and Salmon Recovery Funding Board. Learn more details about the project.
Salmon habitat restoration projects like this are happening around the state to return rivers and bays to more natural states, while still accommodating people.
Restoring Tidal Flow of the Middle Fork Hoquiam River
The Grays Harbor Conservation District completed a major project in 2021 by restoring tidal flow to a Sitka spruce wetland near Hoquiam. The project is the culmination of more than a decade of work in which the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust bought the land and partnered with the conservation district to reconnect the wetland to the Hoquiam River. The wetland and stream channels were blocked by a logging railroad and log dump, disconnecting them from estuary tides for nearly 100 years.
Tidal wetlands and floodplain channels provide valuable rearing habitat for young salmon, which grow rapidly in these areas. Because young salmon are more likely to survive their time in the ocean if they are larger, projects like this tidal reconnection project will increase the number of fish returning as adults to the river.
This project reconnected and restored about 153 acres of tidal wetland and allowed salmon and steelhead to access about 3.5 miles of blocked streams.
Streamside forests dominated by alder trees have been planted with Sitka spruce to speed the recovery of mature forests that will provide long-term benefits to the river and wetland. The Hoquiam River is home to chum, coho, and Chinook salmon; steelhead trout; and a variety of other fish. The project was funded with grants from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Washington Coast Restoration and Resiliency Initiative. Learn more details about the project.