Community, partnerships vital to Entiat Valley restoration efforts


Entiat, Washington – More than a dozen people endured rain and chill along the Entiat River recently to support salmon recovery and habitat restoration efforts. The Cascadia Conservation District-led group, which included members of Boy Scouts Troop 16 Entiat and nearby residents, planted some 300 trees and shrubs to help prevent soil erosion, stabilize the river’s shoreline, and provide shade from the hot summer sun.

The planting completed a recent habitat restoration project that placed log structures within the waterway to help shelter young, vulnerable Chinook salmon and steelhead from predators, funded by the US Bureau of Reclamation. The salmon habitat structures also will help buffer the juvenile fish from the swift downstream currents in the spring, buying them time to grow strong enough to make their way into the Columbia River.

Restoring the Entiat Valley waterway has been a two decades-long effort that is made possible by community partners and agencies who recognize the importance of safeguarding the river valley, said Mike Cushman, Cascadia Conservation District Program Director. Engaging with local community members to learn about their knowledge of the watershed, as well as their needs and priorities, allowed collaboration and opportunities to work with multiple agencies and organizations.

Landowners have participated in projects to improve the efficiency of irrigation water use, consolidate and upgrade irrigation ditches, install improved screens where water is pumped from the river for irrigation to prevent harm to fish, restore miles of streamside vegetation, and assist in dozens of projects along their privately-owned river banks to restore habitat diversity. That’s important because fish need a variety of different conditions to thrive. In addition to cool, clean, oxygen-rich flowing water, they need slower pools and hanging branches to hide under, wood and plants in the water to nurture the small insects young salmon feed on, and gravelly beds in which to lay their eggs.

The ultimate goal is to ensure the long-term health and vitality of the river, which will benefit salmon, steelhead, and other wildlife, along with their human neighbors and the entire Columbia River system.

“These projects have been a great example of the importance of community engagement, working together with government agencies to develop project opportunities,” Cushman said. “That’s one of the true successes of this project.”

Landowner Fred Deskin, who has lived in the Entiat Valley for 47 years, is one such example of the important role of residents in helping to preserve what makes the valley so special, Cushman added.

But it wasn’t always that way, Deskin stated. The greater focus on stewardship and protecting central Washington’s natural resources has been a necessary evolution, he noted.

“When I was a child, sometimes you’d see someone throw a can out the window or a septic system drain right into a stream,” Deskin said. “You don’t see that anymore and that’s a good thing.”

Deskin, who is a superintendent for Sabey Construction at Intergate.Quincy, a Sabey-owned data center in Grant County, recruited Sabey to provide lunch for the hardworking volunteers. He hopes to further involve the company in the recovery efforts since Sabey has a track record of environmental stewardship and sustainable practices at its other sites. As an example, Sabey has partnered for nearly 20 years with local, state and federal agencies to restore Riverton Creek, a waterway near Seattle that feeds into the Duwamish River.

Efforts related to reviving salmon populations and restoring aquatic habitats have received heightened attention in recent months as elected officials, agencies, tribes, and the public seek solutions to the declining populations among the southern resident Orca whales who feed on Chinook salmon.

In the meantime, the Cascadia Conservation District and its partners will continue to work toward a future where Chinook and steelhead populations within the Entiat Valley are resilient and self-sustaining.

“Salmon recovery is a long game,” Cushman said. “But because of the willingness of communities like Entiat, we’re able to learn and look at every piece to see the effects of our restoration efforts.”

About Cascadia Conservation District

The Cascadia Conservation District is a non-regulatory political subdivision self-governed by a volunteer board of supervisors. Its mission is to encourage wise stewardship and conservation of all natural resources for current and future residents of Chelan County.

About Sabey Corporation

Sabey is a privately held commercial real estate development and investment company specializing in data center, medical and life sciences, education, government and military properties. Headquartered in Tukwila, Sabey employs more than 220 people.

Press release courtesy of Pacific Public Affairs