Sequim Gazette: Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe concerned about water supply for salmon

Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe natural resources director Scott Chitwood spoke with the Sequim Gazette recently about the tribe’s concern for water supply and salmon this summer following 2014-15’s mild winter and low snowpack in the Olympic Mountains.

“We’re thinking about surface flows,” Scott Chitwood, natural resources director for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, said. “What influences groundwater influences surface flow and vice versa.” 

From Chitwood’s perspective, the main concern with the predicted drought is the diminished ability for adult salmonids to travel upstream and restricted amount of usable habitat for juvenile salmonids. 

“If the river forecasts are accurate, we’ll probably be looking at flows less than 50 cfs (cubic foot per second) which is probably the lowest anyone alive today has ever seen,” Chitwood said. 

Although Chitwood feels the dry-year leasing program is a “solid concept,” he said the lowest flows actually could be experienced after the program ends. 

“We could be looking at the lowest flows after the irrigation season,” he said. “Following through with the public and irrigators in late September/early October still will be important. We need to be prepared for brown lawns.” 

However, Chitwood noted, with modern technology and thus better forecast abilities, more time to ready for drought response strategies is available. 

Throughout the summer months Chitwood and his staff will focus on the Dungeness River and evaluate whether they need to enlist extra help to adjust riffles within the river to better allow fish passage, for example. Following the summer, the tribe turns its attention more toward smaller streams such as Jimmycomelately Creek.