Better Days for Washington’s Salmon: Helping diverse groups restore the Skokomish River

Skokomish River, Washington. Photo by Sarah Jordan.

Good news for salmon in Washington! Through our work coordinating a diverse coalition in Washington state, salmon habitat on the battered Skokomish River scored a win recently.

Over the years, road construction, clearcut logging, and dams, among other factors, have significantly altered the character of the Skokomish River, which empties into southwest portion of Puget Sound.

Logging and roads have caused excess sediment to wash into the river, clogging the river channel with gravel. As a result, fish habitat was degraded and the ecology of the riparian zone altered. The Skokomish has also become prone to violent, frequent flooding, which puts downstream communities in danger.

But in September, a major barrier to the salmon’s passage disappeared thanks to the half-million dollar fish-passage project led by the Skokomish Watershed Action Team, which The Wilderness Society coordinates.

As a result, we were able to open up three more miles of the river for fish spawning.

The half-million dollar fish-passage project replaces three road culverts with modern bridges and removes a diversion dam on tributaries to the Skokomish. The results of this work will be a restored ecosystem, viable salmon breeding habitat, and a reduction in road maintenance and repair costs.

The project is part of a remarkable collaboration that has “turned the Skokomish watershed from a poster child for bad forestry to a poster child for collaborative habitat restoration,” said Mike Anderson, senior resource analyst for the Northwest regional office of The Wilderness Society.

Anderson joined forces with the diverse members of the SWAT to create a collaborative approach to the restoration of this watershed. The Skokomish Watershed Action Team is comprised of government agencies, local residents, conservation groups, private industry, and the Skokomish Tribe, has been working for the past five years to restore the Skokomish River and its tributaries to a healthy, functioning ecosystem.

The SWAT works together to plan, fund, and implement projects aimed at healing the Skokomish watershed.

In addition to the great benefits for salmon, our work with the Skokomish Watershed Action team shows that diverse groups can be inspired to find common ground and work together — in this case to restore a battered watershed. Thanks to skillful grassroots organizing, the wild salmon and human residents of the Skokomish will enjoy a healthier, happier, and safer ecosystem!

Read a recent article about the restoration project.

photo: Skokomish River, Washington. Photo by Sarah Jordan.