Skagit River and Seattle City Light

I just received this letter from Seattle City Light and am pleased with the actions they have chosen to take along these lines, it shows a concern I didn't think the company was capable of, very nice!

VIA ELECTRONIC EMAIL

March 14, 2011

Dave McCoy
Emerald Waters Anglers
dave@emeraldwaterangles.com

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Denise Krownbell and I am the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Land Program Manager for Seattle City Light. Under this ESA Land Program, City Light provides funding for salmon habitat acquisition and restoration projects in an effort to aid in the recovery of ESA-listed fish stocks. In the case of the Skagit River, those species are Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout.

Gilligan Creek, a tributary of the Skagit River, is used by steelhead, chum and coho salmon for spawning and rearing habitat. Recognizing Gilligan Creek’s importance as high-quality fish habitat, City Light purchased a property located near West Gilligan Creek Road that runs along the lower portion of Gilligan Creek in 2002 with the intention of protecting and restoring the habitat on site. Currently, we are working with the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group (SFEG) to secure grant funding to begin restoration of salmonid habitat on the property. The surveys done by SFEG indicate the need for restoration work on the property, including closing the property to vehicle access, treating and removing invasive plant species on site, and replanting treated areas with native species as well as augmenting the current habitat with additional plantings.

To prevent further damage and effectively restore salmonid habitat at the property, beginning April 4, 2011 vehicle access to the site will be prohibited. Vehicles have damaged the riparian (bank) area portions of the property, creating erosion issues, compacting the soil so native species cannot take hold and spreading invasive plant species. Off Road Vehicle (ORV) traffic in and across the Gilligan Creek channel also has been reported, and has the potential to damage salmonid egg sites and/or injure and kill juvenile fish. City Light is aware that the site has been used as an informal boat launch area and we will be posting signs and initially providing information directing the public to nearby alternative official boat launch areas. We will continue to allow access by foot for recreational activities like walking, birdwatching, and fishing during fishing seasons and will provide a small area for a few vehicles to park.

SFEG also has recommended the removal of a large area of an invasive species called knotweed. Knotweed grows very rapidly and chokes out native plants and does not provide any habitat benefit to fish, particularly salmon. Knotweed can spread easily with the breaking off of fragments of the plant and by rooted portions washing downstream. Vehicle traffic is particularly effective at spreading knotweed and also damages native plants – another important reason for prohibiting vehicular access to this site. We have hired SFEG to treat the knotweed on site and replant the areas infested with knotweed with native species.

There are areas of the property that have native plant species growing which benefit salmon but not in densities that fully benefit salmon. Native plants provide shade and cover along the river for the salmon to hide and also provide a food source from the insects falling from the native plants. SFEG will be hosting planting events at the site to enhance native vegetation throughout the property to fully restore the habitat with the additional benefit of educating volunteers on the value of restored salmonid habitat. If you are interested in participating in the replanting, please let me know.

Seattle City Light is contacting recreation-oriented groups and businesses as well as fishing enthusiasts to notify your organization of the upcoming changes so that your organization may incorporate this information into your work or plans for future fishing seasons. I welcome any thoughts or questions you have about the property and the planned restoration actions. I can be reached at (206) 615-1127 or denise.krownbell@seattle.gov.

Sincerely,

Denise Krownbell
Sr. Environmental Affairs

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