This year’s White Salmon Riverfest Symposium brought together the community during an important time for the river. With Condit Dam gone, user groups have steadily been learning how new relationships will work, helping everyone to get what they need from the river without conflicts.
Over the previous year, a river user working group called SHARE the White Salmon has been bringing together groups to help facilitate positive interactions and provide education and outreach to protect the river. The group welcomes anyone who would like to participate.
Davis Washines, a member of the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commision (CRITFC), brought the group together with wise words spoken by a true native to the watershed. He pointed out that this is a time of community uniting to help a river recover and thrive. With deep roots in the Husum area, Davis reminded this diverse group that we are all obligated to help the river in this way as we are merely borrowing it from our children and future generations.
State of the White Salmon River
From there, Margaret Neuman from the Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group (MCFEG) reported on the general state of the White Salmon River post-dam removal. She highlighted the return of the fish and all the users that count on this special river for a variety of purposes. Farmers, ranchers, neighbors, anglers, tribal members, whitewater kayakers, whitewater rafters, and tourists all depend upon the glacial flow coming down from Mt Adams.
Now, we must all remember how to work together, emphasized Margaeret, to retain this experience for each other. For instance, boaters can help by washing their equipment after visiting other watersheds to prevent the spread of invasive species. Anglers and river recreation users also need to be aware of new redds in the river, in order to preserve the new fish population.
Most notably, Margaret introduced the new contact for large wood removal on the White Salmon River, a topic discussed later in the event.
Sam Kolb with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will address all new wood removal issues on the river and can be contacted at 360-907-9814, or at the emergency Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) hotline, 360-902-2537.
Local Landowner Habitat and Environmental Assistance
Tova Tillinghast with the Underwood Conservation District (UCD) followed, explaining the organization’s work to the community members who might benefit the most from it. UCD exists to help landowners maintain a healthy environment by preventing pollution run-off, preventing fire risk to homes, planting native species at a fraction of the cost, and creating better fish passage systems in tributaries. UCD funds these non-regulatory projects and is excited to work with people in the area.
Blain Parker from CRITFC spoke to the audience specifically about the threat of invasive species upon the river. These critters can negatively affect water quality as they can push out native species like salmon or steelhead, and they can impact recreation.
The solution is prevention. Everyone can help prevent these species from entering new waterways by properly cleaning gear, being aware of where the threats exist, spreading the word and teaching others by example.
Land Rezoning Success
Sally Newell of the Friends of the White Salmon River shared their organization’s success in the recent ruling regarding dense residential development along the White Salmon’s fragile corridor. The result of the hearing requires an extensive assessment of environmental impacts to take place before any future rezoning issues are presented.
Salmon and Fish Count Updates
No symposium would be complete without an update from our favorite fish biologist, Rod Engle with the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Rod spoke of all the species in the river: rainbow trout, Cutthroat trout, Bull trout, Lamprey, Steelhead, Chinook or King salmon, Coho salmon and more.
Rod also brought good news from the 2012 redd mapping studies. According to their studies, scientists found 194 Tule Fall Chinook redds and 257 Bright Fall Chinook redds within the river. They also believe that Steelhead redds may exist in both Buck Creek and Rattlesnake Creek, both tributaries entering above the former dam site. A fish biologist also confirmed a Bull Trout sighting, a rare incidence on any river in the region.
Finally, a panel of speakers came together to discuss with the audience the role of large wood in the river. The panel included:
- Tom O’Keefe, NW Stewardship Director for American Whitewater
- Diane Driscoll, NOAA Fisheries
- Will Conley, Yakama Nations and private boater
- Bill Norris, Interfluve
- Tim Hardin, Klickitat Search and Rescue, private boater
- Sue Baker, US Forest Service
Below are the questions and summaries of responses from the panel.
Q: What is the greatest need for recovering lost aquatic habitat?
A: We need to focus on the connectivity between river and surrounding riparian habitat (forest). Dam removal was pivotal, now we need to look at the wood.
Q: If there is a log jam in a particular dangerous location, what is the best way to address it?
A: You must seek Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) from the WA Department of Fish & Wildlife. You’ll need a collaborative concept of what to do with the log after it is removed. Both the river use on that section of water and the need for habitat must be addressed.
Q: What is the threshold of when risk of wood outweighs benefit of fish?
A: There is a need to assess how far away you can see the obstacle and how much time there is to avoid it. To illustrate this, Tom O’Keefe provides a matrices of when to remove or not remove wood from a river. The general consensus is to leave wood in the rivers unless it poses a threat to many people.
The Symposium organizers and participants would also like to thank the many sponsors who made this event a success through contributions and raffle donations. These include:
Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe
Wind River Winery
White Salmon Winery
North Shore Coffee