Peninsula receives more than $1 million for fish barrier removal

OLYMPIA — Clallam and Jefferson counties have received $1.01 million in state funding for fish barrier removal projects, part of a $25 million investment that will provide more than 82 miles of new salmon habitat.

The state Department of Fish & Wildlife announced last week new funding for 50 projects in 20 counties, including six projects on the North Olympic Peninsula, to remove fish passage barriers that block migrating fish from swimming upstream to spawning areas.

Clallam County received $699,859 in grants, which were coordinated by the Brian Abbott Fish Barrier Removal Board and administered by the state Recreation and Conservation Office.

Jefferson County received a $397,163 share of the funding, which comes from the sale of state bonds.

“These projects build on previous fish passage investments by the state Department of Transportation, forest land owners, and local governments,” said Tom Jameson, Fish & Wildlife department fish passage manager and chair of the Brian Abbott Fish Barrier Removal Board.

“We’re excited that several projects will focus on watersheds that are particularly good habitat for chinook salmon, which are the main food source for southern resident killer whales [orcas],” Jameson said.

“We appreciate the Legislature’s support so we can continue contributing to salmon and orca recovery.”

The most common barriers to fish passage are culverts, or large pipes or other structures that carry streams under roads.

Culverts can be too high for fish to reach, too small to handle high water flows or too steep for fish to navigate, Fish & Wildlife officials said.

Here are the funded Clallam County projects:

• $199,960 for designing improved fish passage in the lower Hoko wetland, providing access to 1.4 miles of habitat and 30.5 acres of potential spawning and wetland rearing habitat for coho salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout.

• $199,060 for planning to replace three culverts on Johnson Creek, opening 2.4 miles of spawning habitat and 15.6 acres of upstream habitat for coho, steelhead and cutthroat trout.

• $197,060 for restoring access to Talbot Creek, providing 30.5 acres of wetland rearing habitat for coho, steelhead and cutthroat trout where Hoko-Ozette Road meets Talbot Creek.

• $103,779 for restoring access to Railroad Creek, a Hoko River tributary, in a North Olympic Salmon Coalition project that will provide 2.49 acres of rearing habitat for coho, steelhead and cutthroat trout.

Here are the funded Jefferson County projects:

• $198,850 for replacing a culvert on Naylors Creek at West Valley and Gibbs Lakes roads, proving access to 3.8 miles of the creek.

• $198,313 for replacing two culverts in Thorndyke Creek at Thorndyke Road, restoring upstream habitat to pre-1900 conditions.

The Brian Abbott Fish Barrier Removal Board coordinates the removal of fish passage barriers on state, local, tribal and private land that block salmon and steelhead access to prime spawning and rearing habitat.

It was created by the Legislature in 2014.

“This board represents an incredible partnership that ultimately helps us open entire watersheds where we can make the biggest impact for fish,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the state Recreation and Conservation Office.

“A coordinated approach is key to helping fish reach the ocean, return home to spawn, and get to healthy habitats to feed, grow and transition from saltwater to freshwater.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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