Pilchuck Dam removal to restore fish access to pristine habitat

The Tulalip Tribes and the city of Snohomish plan to remove a dam on the Pilchuck River where fish passage has been impeded for more than 100 years.

The city owns the water supply diversion dam on the river southeast of Granite Falls, but has started getting its drinking water from the city of Everett. The dam is no longer needed and the facility prevents salmon and steelhead from fully accessing the 37 miles of pristine habitat upstream.

“By utilizing other water sources, the city can be more efficient, save money and work collaboratively with Tulalip to restore natural river conditions for threatened salmon,” said Steve Schuller, Snohomish city administrator and utility general manager.

The watershed has enough spawning habitat, said Brett Shattuck, Tulalip restoration ecologist, but lacks places for juvenile salmon to go when they first emerge from their eggs.

“Chinook, coho, steelhead and other species in the Pilchuck River are vital to our culture, and are iconic to our region,” said Tulalip Chairwoman Marie Zackuse. “This collaboration between Tulalip and the city of Snohomish will result in meaningful restoration that can move the dial towards salmon recovery and provide mutual benefits.”

Tulalip provided design, grant and ecological expertise, and is now doing community outreach.

“We will be conducting analyses and outreach, and producing plans in this initial project phase,” Shattuck said. “There are many stakeholders who we want to include in this project to make sure that everyone is informed and has an opportunity to provide input.”

The first Pilchuck River dam was constructed in 1912, and the current structure was completed in 1932.

“If everything goes perfectly, we would tentatively start deconstruction in summer 2020,” Shattuck said.

Tearing down a diversion dam on the Pilchuck River will restore fish access to pristine spawning and rearing habitat. Photo: Kari Neumeyer


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