North Fork Lewis salmon, steelhead to get habitat help

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter



The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is proposing to place more than 1,300 large pieces of wood with root wads at 90 locations in the upper North Fork of the Lewis River and Clearwater Creek in conjunction with the salmon and steelhead reintroduction upstream of Swift Dam.

Also proposed is a temporary acclimation pond for spring chinook at the road No. 90 bridge, approximately two miles downstream from Lower Falls Recreation Area.

To comment

• Comments on the proposal are due by Nov. 14 to Brittany Zapata, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, 10600 N.E. 51st Circle, Vancouver, 98682, or by email to bnzapata@fs.fed.u...

To discuss the proposal, call Adam Haspiel at 360-449-7833 or by email to ahaspiel@fs.fed.u...

The work is planned for 2013.

The habitat restoration is part of the Forest Service’s role in the reopening of 117 miles of historic salmon and steelhead habitat in the upper North Lewis watershed.

According to Adam Haspiel, a fish biologist for the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, the following is planned:

• Approximately 160 pieces of large woody material would be used to create 16 structures in a side channel just upstream from the mouth of Muddy River.

• Approximately 300 pieces of large wood would be used to build 25 structures in another side channel about a quarter mile upstream of the Muddy River confluence.

• About 1.7 miles of Clearwater Creek, a tributary, would get approximately 900 pieces of wood installed at 50 locations.

• A portable pond would be assembled near what’s known as the Crab Creek Bridge, where Lewis River road No. 90 crosses the North Lewis. The pond would be assembled in April and a temporary supply line installed to bring water from Crab Creek.

The fish will be released by May 31 by removing a screen on the outflow pipe.

The purpose of the pond is to get spring chinook to imprint and return to the highest accessible reaches of the upper North Fork Lewis.

Lower Falls, a couple of miles upstream, is a blockage to fish passage farther up the drainage.

As part of the 50-year federal license to operate the three dams on the North Fork of the Lewis, PacifiCorp and Cowlitz PUD are required to reestablish salmon and steelhead in the upper watershed.

Adult winter steelhead, coho and spring chinook will be captured at Merwin Dam and trucked upstream of Swift Dam for release.

The goal is to release 1,500 winter steelhead, 9,000 coho and 2,000 spring chinook annually.

The young produced by those adults will be collected at a $63-million, 3-million-pound floating fish collector attached to Swift Dam and trucked to the lower Lewis.

The collector will be operational by late December.