Warner Basin Aquatic Habitat Partnership
The Tulalip Tribe Natural Resources Department leads the way in a fish restoration project in Carnation, WA. Natasha Coumou Assistant Restoration Ecologist explains why.
Bear River is a working river supporting agriculture and ranching. But over time, the river has suffered and so have the native Bonneville cutthroat trout. Open Rivers Fund is working with Western Native Trout Initiative to remove 13 diversions in the Bear River watershed to open up 90 miles of habitat for native trout, while improving the irrigation function the river provides.
To a rancher or farmer, water is everything. On the Bear River, the Booth Diversion Dam was an inefficient irrigation structure that blocked fish passage. This project removed the structure and replaced it with a series of rock structures that provide small elevation gains so that water can still be diverted upstream. The project brought together diverse stakeholders working toward common goals and showcases potential for similar efforts in the region that improve water delivery for landowners and restore fish passage. “It made my life a lot easier,” says Wade Lowham, owner Arrow Ranch.
The Smith-Meyer-Roper diversion dam was built in the early 1900’s to provide irrigation water. The structure blocks coho and steelhead from accessing spawning and rearing habitat. The dam was removed in 2019 and replaced with a roughened channel and headgate that continues to allow landowners to divert water for irrigation, while also allowing fish passage. “We really like to think of this project as being win-win-win in terms of salmon habitat, land management goals, and helping out the local economy,” says Alexis Larsen, Project Manager, Rogue River Watershed Council.
Beeson-Robison Dam was an inefficient irrigation structure located on Wagner Creek, a tributary to Bear River, that was removed in 2017. Replacing the dam with a roughened channel and headgate system allows salmon and steelhead to access cool-water spawning and rearing habitat, while providing a more efficient irrigation structure that saves irrigators time and money. “There really is no negative,” says Bob Hackett, landowner on Wagner Creek.