Hoko River project seeks salmon recovery and habitat restoration

Salmon coaltion takes lead in collaboration with Makah, Lower Elwha tribes

PORT ANGELES — The North Olympic Salmon Coalition is seeking to restore a half-mile of the Hoko River channel and floodplain for salmon recovery and wildlife habitat restoration and to prevent erosion of the Hoko-Ozette Road.

“It sounds like this is an area both where work needs to be done and where there’s opportunity because of land ownership and interest of local partners,” Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias said at the commissioners’ April 8 meeting prior to the commissioners’ approval of a letter of support for the project.

The goal is to have 100 percent design and permitting finished by December 2026. No construction schedule has been proposed. The estimated design cost is $322,885.

Kevin Long, senior project manager for the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, said stacking woody debris in the river would slow down the river flow and allow water to go into the side channels and floodplain instead of all of it going into the main channel.

“So, success looks like slower water. The big thing you are going to notice is the water slowed down and spread out across the floodplain,” he said in response to a question from Ozias.

“That creates a whole bunch of habitat for fish and wildlife having that slower water. And as far as infrastructure goes, we stop the erosion that’s taking place at the Hoko-Ozette Road.”

Rebecca Mahan, Clallam County habitat biologist, said at the commissioners’ work session that the Makah Tribe unsuccessfully applied for funding last year, so the North Olympic Salmon Coalition took over as project lead in collaboration with the Makah, Lower Elwha Tribe and Washington State Parks, since the bulk of the restoration will occur on state parks property.

“That includes a portion of the Hoko-Ozette Road that is near Cowan’s Ranch, which tends to get flooding and erosion and scarring,” Mahan said.

“So this project will help alleviate that and will help direct water away from the county road,” she said. “Part of this project is to excavate a channel across the river into a floodplain area.”

Mahan said the 77 proposed logjams will help keep the water from scouring away the riverbank and also will create pools that are deeper and colder for fish to rest and reside within. The Hoko has coho, Chinook, steelhead, cutthroat, chum and Pacific lamprey that would benefit from the project, she said.

Mahan said the permits are ready and the project is 60 percent designed. The coalition is seeking funding to finish the project design, she said.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached by email at brian.gawley@peninsuladailynews.com.

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