heli w treeThe Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are working on a salmon habitat restoration project along the lower White River (RM 2-5) in Chelan County. They will be flying whole trees to the White River September 16thand ask that boaters and recreationalist avoid the river and river corridor between the Sears Creek and Little Wenatchee River Road Bridges during daylight hours. In July 2014 nearly 130 pilings were installed in 30 discrete locations within the channel to retain and collect small mobile wood. The final element of this project involves utilizing a helicopter to add whole trees to the piling structures.

Background

Over the past century, the number of Pacific salmon returning to the Columbia Basin have declined. Annual number of salmon and steelhead returning to the Columbia Basin to spawn, once estimated to range from 10-16 million, were recently reported at about 1 million fish annually. As a result of these declines, many stocks of salmon and steelhead have been extirpated and/or listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act. In the Wenatchee watershed, spring Chinook were determined to be Endangered in 1999; steelhead and bull trout were listed as Threatened in 2009 and 1998, respectively. The reasons for this precipitous decline are often grouped into four major categories known as the 4-H’s: Harvest, Hydropower, Hatcheries, and Habitat.

 
The lower White River, like most river basins in the West, experienced decades of intensive timber harvest. Large clear cuts on private land, including to the river’s edge, occurred as recently as the 1980’s. Logging in the early years generally focused on harvesting trees along the river, as it provided the most efficient method for transporting logs to the mills. The large trees along the lower White were indeed a mosaic of sizes but included many large cedars, white pine, Douglas-fir, and Engelmann spruce, sometimes up to 8 feet in diameter! These highly-prized trees were most easily transported to the mill by floating them downriver once they’d been cut and skidded to the channel.  Large, occasionally channel-spanning logjams were likely common on the lower White and had to be dynamited to get the trees to the Lake or onward to Leavenworth. The loss of these riparian forests and instream logjams resulted in a significant decrease in local fish and wildlife habitat. As a result of these changes, the White River has down-cut vertically, reducing the frequency of flood flows on the floodplain and lowering the water table. 
The goal of our project is to reconstruct the role that the downed old growth trees and logjams once provided. To learn more about this and other salmon habitat projects, please visit our webpage (http://www.ccfeg.org/current-projects/habitat-projects/whiteriver/) or call or email with questions or concerns 509.888.7268/Jason@ccfeg.org.
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