Please select your home edition
Nanni Diesel 2019 Leaderboard

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

California vintner steps up to protect salmon
A vintner in Northern California is upgrading a concrete fish barrier A cooperative "Safe Harbor" agreement between the landowner Barbara Banke, Chairman and proprietor of Jackson Family Wines, and NOAA Fisheries and other state and local agencies has fostered the improvements. Posted on 11 Jul
New indicators may help manage global overfishing
Scientists and resource managers need to focus on the whole ecosystem The smallest plants and creatures in the ocean power entire food webs, including the fish that much of the world's population depends on for food, work and cultural identity. Posted on 29 Jun
Status of Coral Reef Fishes in Guam
Researchers assessed the stock status of 12 Guam reef fish species The longface emperor gets its name from its distinctive elongated head. Large emperors like this one are known as "lililok" in the indigeneous Chamorro language of the Mariana Islands. Posted on 27 Jun
Saildrone set to track Alaska red king crab
Very little is known about how recent environmental variability drives crab seasonal movements Fishing industry and researchers team up to track red king crab seasonal movements to provide data vital to keeping the Bristol Bay fishery sustainable in a changing climate. Posted on 16 Jun
NOAA Fisheries supports youth angler engagement
Youth introduced to fishing opportunities & sustainability at events About a dozen youth anglers in Alaska's Bristol Bay region are hard at work this week learning about fish habitat, fishery science, resource management, ecology, and land use conservation. Posted on 13 Jun
National Fishing and Boating Week 2019
Engaging with recreational anglers is a top priority To kick off National Fishing and Boating Week 2019, NOAA Fisheries is releasing six region-specific saltwater recreational fisheries engagement plans highlighting where and how our agency will be working to better engage fishermen. Posted on 10 Jun
10 reasons king crabs rule
Red king crab support important commercial fisheries off Alaska Learn more about the role of red king crab in Alaska. Posted on 25 May
Southern California's forgotten treasures
Southern steelhead, white and black abalone are iconic to southern California history and culture The remnants of endangered Southern steelhead trout, white abalone and black abalone populations have dwindled from overharvesting and habitat degradation. They're so rare that they have become forgotten coastal treasures. Posted on 16 May
Tagging reveals secrets of largest sharks
Little known about basking shark's habitat, behavior, and migratory patterns NOAA Fisheries researchers are now seeking to unravel the mysteries of basking sharks by tagging them with satellite transmitters that will reveal their movements and behavior as they roam the waters around Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Posted on 16 May
Alaska Salmon Travels - Post 4
Join Alaska Fisheries SC in attempt to better understand hatchery-reared salmon marine survival The marking process has been surprisingly smooth, especially since most of the crew (including me) are new to the tagging game. Posted on 11 May
Nanni Diesel 2019 FooterRaymarine AUS Lighthouse 3 Annapolis 3.9 - BOTTOMMarina Exchange FOOTER 1