State Parks removes 15 fish barriers to improve salmon passage

The salmon are happy at Potlach, Dosewallips and Flaming Geyser state parks. Just over a year after Washington State Parks removed culverts to improve salmon migration, hundreds of fish had returned for the first time in decades.

State Parks removed 15 fish barriers in eight state parks over a period of three years beginning in 2013, as required by a 2013 federal injunction involving tribes. The agency met its Oct. 31, 2016, deadline to remove undersized culverts that prevented fish from migrating upstream and replace them with bridges or larger culverts.

According to State Parks Stewardship Manager Lisa Lantz, the agency will continue to monitor and maintain the sites. She recognized Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for its assistance with culvert redesign and said Parks worked closely with other agencies and tribes on the design for each project.

State Parks received $4.4 million from the state capital budget to mitigate the 15 obstructions. Lantz said several removals involved the culvert plus adjacent infrastructure, which increased construction costs. In the case of Sequim Bay State Park, the agency took out a culvert, a road, a building and a sewage lift station in order to make the necessary improvements. Parks staff then restored the stream to its natural flow, adding woody debris for fish habitat, and replanting native vegetation on the banks.

Lantz said that some results, including the Potlach State Park project, were “pretty dramatic.” The agency continues to monitor culverts on its lands to ensure they do not become barriers in the future.

Fish barriers were removed at Bogachiel, Dosewallips, Flaming Geyser, Manchester, Millersylvania, Potlatch, Wallace Falls, and Sequim Bay state parks.