Habitat Improvements for Threatened Fish Species
(Nespelem, Wash. January 11, 2012) –
In an effort to recover Upper Columbia summer steelhead, a fish species that is federally-listed as “threatened,” the Colville Tribes Fish and Wildlife (CTFW) staff continues to improve habitat in tributaries along the Okanogan River. The most recent tributary where staff has been engaged in rehabilitation work is Loup Loup Creek. The creek flows near the town of Malott, Wash. before entering the Okanogan River.
“This creek enters the Okanogan River and drains an area of about 64 square miles,” said Jerry Marco, CTFW Anadromous division program manager. “Like most tributaries to the Okanogan River, Loup Loup Creek has been seasonally dewatered by an irrigation diversion located at approximately one mile upstream from the mouth.”
Since 2007, CTFW staff has worked with Helensdale Reclamation District (irrigation district) to reestablish continuous stream flow at the creek while maintaining agriculture production. After numerous meetings and collaboration, a 20-year water lease agreement was developed, signed by both parties and will be implemented in the beginning of 2012.
“The agreement indicates that the Tribe, using Accord funds, which are essentially rate payer dollars, are benefiting the local tribe and constituents in the Upper Columbia ESU, these funds help pay the costs incurred by the District to pump water from the Okanogan River in lieu of diverting water and de-watering Loup Loup Creek,” said Marco.
Two round culverts within the lowermost one-half mile of Loup Loup Creek were recognized as impediments to fish passage. During the fall of 2011, CTFW staff began working with Okanogan County Public Works Department, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board and Bonneville Power Administration, and assisted in removing two culverts (see photo). Both culverts were replaced with bottomless box culverts which reestablish the natural channel slope and a stream bed which facilitates fish passage to 2.2 miles of habitat. A natural falls prevents further migration.
“This project allows adult steelhead to spawn successfully and their corresponding juvenile fish to rear without becoming stranded and dying due to de-watering,” said Chris Fisher,
CTFW habitat biologist. “Now with year round flow, the successful spawning from returning adults, such as the estimated 125 that returned in 2010, will result in the production of hundreds of smolts and assist in the recovery of this indigenous, federally “threatened” species.”