PORT ANGELES (December 7, 2004) – The Salt Creek Watershed has about 50 miles of fish habitat, but half of it is inaccessible to salmon and trout, according to a recently completed assessment of the area.
The study, developed by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, will be presented at a public meeting on Dec. 13 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Crescent Bay Lions Club. The two groups, along with the WRIA 19 Citizens Facilitation Group, have scheduled the public meeting to discuss the results of the assessment with local landowners and others interested in the watershed.
The assessment outlines current habitat conditions and the status of fish populations within the watershed, and lists improvements to fish access and habitat throughout the area. The tribe and NOSC put together the prioritized approach to restoring habitat after surveying the watershed and speaking to local landowners about fish populations and other issues in the area.
“We want to present the results of this assessment and get feedback from landowners in the watershed,” said Mike McHenry, fisheries habitat manager for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. “We have identified possible projects that can help restore fish habitat and we would like to see if the watershed’s residents have any interest in implementing parts or all of this plan and seeking funding for the projects.”
Along with fish blocking culverts, a lack of woody debris in Salt Creek and streamside vegetation is a problem in the watershed. Woody debris provides protection for fish from predators, while vegetation provides shade that cools the water, keeping it at an ideal temperature for fish. Streamside forests also help with water quality. Acting as a natural buffer, the vegetation keeps sediment and pollutants, often from storm-water runoff, from flowing into the stream.
“There wasn’t much information about the Salt Creek Watershed,” said Paula Mackrow, executive director of the North Olympic Salmon Coalition. The Port Townsend-based coalition is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and enhancing salmon habitat in Clallam and Jefferson counties. “It was important that we do this assessment.”
Salt Creek, which is about 15 miles west of Port Angeles produces coho salmon, along with steelhead and cutthroat trout. Residential and industrial development of the area, however, has taken a toll on fish populations, which are significantly smaller than in the past.
“Essentially, we have this watershed that is favorable to spawning and rearing salmon, but because there is a major fish passage issue, salmon are not able to reach a large portion of the habitat,” said McHenry. “This watershed is a prime spot for some restoration projects, because a lot of these problems can be corrected. Ultimately, however, what takes place next is determined by the residents of Salt Creek.”
For more information, contact: Mike McHenry, fisheries habitat manager for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, (360) 457-4012 ext. 14, [email protected]. Paula Mackrow, executive director of the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, (360) 379-8051, [email protected]. Darren Friedel, information officer for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360) 297-6546, [email protected].