WASHINGTON, North Yakima CD – Cowiche Creek is a good place to start when it comes to salmon and steelhead success stories in the Yakima Basin.
Fish once eliminated from the small tributary have returned. Obstacles to passage have been removed, and riparian vegetation provides a faster-flowing, cooler path upstream.
While it’s hardly fixed every problem or brought back historic populations, Yakima Basin Fish and Wildlife Recovery Board Executive Director Alex Conley said it’s an example of positive steps in the region.
“What we saw in Cowiche Creek is a lot like what we’ve seen on probably 10 different creeks through the basin,” Conley said. “You could tell a similar story — different in the details, but a similar story for Manastash Creek, for Taneum Creek, for Swauk Creek.”
The North Yakima Conservation District’s Justin Bader kicked things off at what’s called the Cowiche Siphon, at the intersection of the Naches-Cowiche Canal and Cowiche Creek near Powerhouse Road. Bader explained how his organization and the county removed and replaced a concrete siphon so it no longer creates a barrier for juvenile coho and steelhead.
North Yakima Conservation District Manager Michael Tobin said more education is needed to get all stakeholders on board.
“We’re changing a culture of land use along the way,” Tobin said at a stop highlighting a barrier removal on Cowiche Creek near Cowiche. “That’s part of our book on business.”