Focusing on Removing Barriers and Restoring In-stream Flows
During the past 150 years, salmon and steelhead were blocked from habitat by dams and barriers at road crossings and elsewhere. In the past 20 years, more than 245 barriers have been removed, opening nearly 200 miles to salmon. More barrier removal projects are underway, including at the water storage dams in the Yakima River basin. There have been major investments to restore flows in key tributaries in the Yakima basin and ensure that all water diversions are adequately screened so fish do not enter irrigation systems. Also, nearly 3,000 acres of salmon habitat have been protected and 135 miles of streams have been restored or protected. Restoring floodplains is another high priority in the Yakima and Klickitat basins. Projects to set back levees, reconnect side channels, and protect floodplain habitat are reducing flood hazards to local communities and providing valuable fish habitat.
Sediment Increase During Drought
Historic land uses reduced the region’s habitat quality in many streams, but most areas are recovering well as land managers protect habitat. The Department of Ecology’s invertebrate (bug count) data indicate that stream biological health in the region improved since 2011. However, in 2015, a drought year, more of the region’s salmon and trout habitat had sediment concentrations above what are good for those fish. More monitoring is needed to see whether this data will show trends.