A major fish passage barrier in the West Fork Chehalis River will be addressed starting next summer, when the Lewis Conservation District and timber company Weyerhaeuser team up to reconnect the river’s original path, which was altered in the 1960s to accommodate a forest road.
Since then, the river’s path has included the West Fork Falls, an impassable rocky waterfall that prevents salmon and steelhead from migrating upstream.
The project will include relocating the road, reconnecting the old channel and adding two bridges. Wood structures will also be added to the channel to enhance habitat for fish and other aquatic species.
“Restoring and reconnecting access to spawning habitat is the most important action we can take to help salmon, steelhead and lamprey survive and give them a fighting chance to someday thrive once again,” Quinault Indian Nation Vice President Tyson Johnston said in a press release. “The Quinault Nation appreciates the vision of Weyerhaeuser, the Lewis Conservation District, the state of Washington and all the partners involved in the investment to create a better future for salmon in the Chehalis Basin.”
The fish passage blockage is one of hundreds across the state, many of which are culverts, which Washington state must address under a court order, which ruled them a violation of tribes’ treaty fishing rights.
The majority of salmon species tracked by Washington state’s “State of Salmon” project are “in crisis” or “not keeping pace.”