By Susan Hollingsworth

Salmon won’t be solely relying on the White Salmon River habitat to continue the propagation of their species as they swim by the former dam site. Side creeks and tributaries provide additional premier real estate for creating their precious nest egg (called a salmon redd). In the lengthy process of river restoration along this iconic whitewater destination in southern Washington, it is one of these side streams that has received the first chunk of funding.Buck Creek currently blocks 67% of the riverbed for upstream fish passage.

The Salmon Recovery Funding Board, established in 1999 by Washington state legislature, provides grants for the restoration of salmon habitat throughout the state. In the 2011 funding allocations published just this month,

Buck Creek, a small stream on the Skamania County side of the White Salmon River, was awarded $135,000 for the improvement of fish passage and irrigation systems.

[Check out some photos of Buck Creek’s confluence with the White Salmon River after the past few months.]

A Step toward River Restoration

Currently, an irrigation dam blocks 67% of the creek.

Imagine something like 2/3 of a major highway blocked off and the ensuing road rage. Luckily, salmon won’t pull out a hand gun when rear-ended, they’ll just fight over a smaller space for laying and protecting their eggs. Smaller space means fewer surviving babies.

The project aims to unblock this passage, as well as maintain proper irrigation for the neighboring Northwestern lake cabin owners.

Plan to restore Buck Creek fish passage.The Buck Creek Fish Passage & Irrigation Improvements project, sponsored by the Underwood Conservation District, will help up to 7 different species of threatened fish – some federally ESA designated – find better spawning grounds.

For more info on salmon recovery in Washington, check out other projects funded through the SRFB.

With Condit Dam coming down and upstream passage now available via a tunnel at the base of the dam wall, salmon and steelhead can swim up the White Salmon River for the first time in 98 years.

This cold, steady, and easily accessed resource may actually bring certain species of salmon back from the cusp of extinction. However, a fair bit of housekeeping is in order to truly restore the White Salmon watershed back to its full ecological potential.

Author Susan Hollingsworth writes for Wet Planet Whitewater, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, American Whitewater, and any other river-related publication she can find.