Olympic NF finishes Skokomish restoration

Government notebook: 

Watershed upgraded to “properly functioning” status after 20 years of large-scale work

SHELTON – Capping more than 20 years and millions of dollars of restoration work, the Olympic National Forest recently completed large-scale road decommissioning and road stabilization efforts in the upper South Fork Skokomish River watershed.

Due to the extensive road restoration work and associated instream habitat improvement projects, the watershed has been upgraded to “properly functioning” in the agency’s watershed classification system.

The semi-annual meeting of the Skokomish Watershed Action Team (SWAT) will be held June 17, 9 a.m., at the Skokomish Grange Hall.

“This is a proud and historic occasion for the Forest Service and our many partners who have worked very hard for over two decades to restore this once badly degraded watershed,” said Reta Laford, Forest Supervisor of the Olympic National Forest.

Working in partnership with the Skokomish Tribe and Mason County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently completed an in-depth study of the Skokomish River and recommended congressional authorization of several restoration projects in the Skokomish Valley. Meanwhile, the Tribe and Mason Conservation District expect to complete a multi-year restoration of the Skokomish Estuary this summer.

“Restoring habitat in the Skokomish River is necessary for salmon recovery in Hood Canal and Puget Sound,” said Joseph Pavel, Natural Resources Director for the Skokomish Tribe. “Completing the Forest Service’s restoration of the upper South Fork watershed is a big step forward.”

The Skokomish River is the most frequently flooded river in Washington State, and is critical habitat for Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout, all of which are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed an in-depth study of the river in 2015 and has recommended several ecosystem restoration projects in the Skokomish Valley. Studies highlighted the damaging impacts of logging roads and the need for road decommissioning and stabilization.

“The Forest Service and their SWAT partners deserve a lot of credit for sticking with the South Fork restoration,” said Tim Sheldon, Mason County Commissioner. “This really helps our efforts to improve salmon habitat and reduce flooding in the Skokomish River.”

– USDA/US Forest Service

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