Please select your home edition
Edition
Marina Exchange 728x90 1

Skokomish River restoration helps fish return home

by NOAA Fisheries 6 Jul 16:34 UTC
After restoring tidal flow to the Skokomish River estuary, natural channels begin forming again. © NOAA Fisheries

For decades, human activity blocked salmon, steelhead, and other species from accessing their habitat in Washington's Skokomish River estuary. In recent years, a collaborative partnership has been working to restore this vital habitat.

Today, the Skokomish is the most complete estuary restoration project in Puget Sound—and fish are taking notice. Last year, spring chinook salmon returned to the watershed to spawn for the first time in nearly a century, after having been reintroduced to the river by the Skokomish Tribe in 2016.

As it weaves through western Washington, the Skokomish River flows from Olympic National Park, through Olympic National Forest, and past miles of agricultural landscape before meeting Hood Canal, an arm of Puget Sound. At its mouth, the river forms a nearly 1,000-acre estuary that serves as an important nursery for young fish to eat, grow, and take refuge.

Throughout the 1930s and 40s, large portions of the Skokomish River estuary were converted into farmland. Levees and ditches were constructed to keep out the tides and drain the area so it could be used for grazing and growing crops. The structures served their purpose by keeping water out of the fields, but they also prevented salmon and other fish species from accessing habitat needed to grow and thrive.

Though the land eventually stopped being used for agriculture, the structures continued to block access for fish—including Puget Sound chinook salmon, Hood Canal summer chum salmon, and Puget Sound steelhead trout, all listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

In the 1990s, the Skokomish Indian Tribe, which has a reservation on the river delta, began work to remove the levees, reconnect channels and creeks, and return the Skokomish River estuary to its natural state by restoring tidal flow to more than 300 acres of abandoned agricultural land. Tribal, local, state, and federal governments collaborated on this large-scale effort to provide habitat for fish, shellfish, and wildlife.

NOAA's Restoration Center, housed within the Office of Habitat Conservation, provided assistance throughout the effort. In addition to contributing restoration funding through regional cooperative agreements, NOAA helped the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife develop a new funding source focused on large-scale estuary restoration: the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program. Our staff also helped the state develop innovative methods for combining different funding sources and for funding multiple phases of large restoration projects in a more streamlined way. The Skokomish River estuary was one of the first restoration efforts to benefit from these improved grant processes.

Within the first year of monitoring, tribal biologists and technicians recorded 20 fish species using the estuary's restored channels, including chinook and chum salmon. In addition to fish, monitors survey vegetation, test water quality, and record bird and wildlife sightings to continue to track the estuary's journey toward recovery.

Related Articles

A Day in the Life of a fisheries observer
Free time is dream time As my contract comes to a close and the promise of home looms near, the divide between my life at home and my life up here widens, particularly when it comes to my solitary time. Posted on 7 Nov
Seafood and Human Health webinar
The science behind increasing consumption sustainably This September, the Seafood Nutrition Partnership will hold its annual State of the Science symposium on the latest in seafood dietary and nutritional studies and the social-economic implications for public health. Posted on 27 Sep
Sea Grant announces funds for research projects
The funded projects focus on three areas of need identified by Sea Grant Sea Grant announces $16 million in federal funding awards to support 42 research projects and collaborative programs aimed at advancing sustainable aquaculture in the United States. Posted on 26 Sep
New Sea Grant funding to American lobster industry
Funding for research aimed at understanding physical and chemical changes affecting American lobster Sea Grant announced new funding today for research aimed at understanding physical and chemical changes affecting American lobster (Homarus americanus) in the Gulf of Maine as well as a regional lobster extension program. Posted on 15 Sep
NOAA Fisheries to work with Maine lobster industry
Regional measures to reduce the risk of right whale serious injuries and deaths NOAA Fisheries is disappointed that the Maine Lobstermen's Association announced it is backing away from its commitment to regional measures to reduce the risk of right whale serious injuries and deaths. Posted on 12 Sep
Bottomfishes not as healthy as previously thought
Scientists assessed the stocks of bottomfish in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Stock assessment results differed among the regions. For the CNMI, the stock was healthy (not overfished and not experiencing overfishing). For Guam and American Samoa, the stocks were less healthy. Posted on 5 Sep
Detecting fish from ocean-going robots
Unmanned wind-powered vehicles go farther for longer to expand our knowledge of the ocean The ocean is vast, and fish swim. These are challenges for scientists who need to find out when, where, and how many, fish are found in Alaska's marine waters. Posted on 31 Aug
An early notification from fisherman saved a life
NOAA Fisheries received information that was vital to finding a hooked Hawaiian monk seal Early on Saturday, July 27th, the Hawaii Marine Animal Rescue received a call about a hooked monk seal. A fisherman was reeling in his line when he realized there was an endangered Hawaiian monk seal at the end of it. Posted on 10 Aug
Top 10 facts about sharks and seals
Seals and sharks in Cape Cod waters have some things in common, but other facts may surprise you. There are two similar species of seals that inhabit the Cape and Islands - gray and harbor seals. Adult gray seals can weigh between 550 and 850 pounds and are on the Cape year-round. Posted on 10 Aug
Partnership of fishery managers helps anglers
NOAA Fisheries, ASMFC and Atlantic state agencies partner to make circle hooks No one likes to see a fish float away or sink to the bottom dead. That's why NOAA Fisheries Recreational Fishing Initiative, the ASMFC, and the Atlantic states are working together to help more fish survive when released by recreational anglers. Posted on 9 Aug
Nanni Diesel 2019 FooterMarina Exchange FOOTER 1Raymarine AUS Element HV FOOTER