Habitat Corridor Gives Floodwater Somewhere to Go

The Stillaguamish Tribe is connecting a corridor of chinook habitat from mountain tributaries to the river’s mouth.

During the past 10 years, from Darrington to Stanwood, the tribe has acquired 1,000 acres toward its goal of 7,225 acres by 2055. This winter, the tribe received funding from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board to buy about 90 acres more.

Building a corridor enables the tribe and its partners – which include the Tulalip Tribes, Snohomish County, The Nature Conservancy, Forterra and the Snohomish Conservation District – to complete restoration work outlined in the 2005 Stillaguamish Chinook Recovery Plan.

“We’re all together trying to conserve the land,” said Jason Griffith, Stillaguamish fisheries biologist. “Then we can set back infrastructure, give the river some space and rewild the floodplain.”

Ultimately, the corridor will give the Stillaguamish River somewhere to go during floods, providing an area for sediment to settle.

Sediment and large floods put salmon eggs at risk of being scoured and smothered. Already, floods that used to occur every 20 years are happening every two years, Griffith said. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of floods, along with other negative effects on salmon from high temperatures, low summer flows and rising sea levels.

“A complex floodplain builds resilience into a watershed to deal with these challenges,” Griffith said.

Restoration work along the Stillaguamish River and tributaries will increase shade, reduce flood velocities and improve instream habitat for chinook and other species of salmon.

“As trees mature on these recently acquired parcels and the river moves over time, log jams will form, maintaining side channels and sloughs where juvenile salmon can rear on their way to the sea,” Griffith said.


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