WCC Fish Response: Crews help fish battle the drought

Our Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) crews responded to a different type of emergency this week: Emergency Fish Response! The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) called on WCC AmeriCorps members to complete critical fish passage projects through the Governor's Drought Relief funding package.

These fish passage projects are important in maintaining salmon runs this year because of severe drought conditions statewide.

Hot weather combined with low snowpack means most of Washington’s rivers are running significantly lower than normal. Flows are so low that fish can no longer migrate upstream. Fish passage projects help salmon navigate low rivers by eliminating barriers to water flow and creating deeper pools for salmon to advance upstream. Learn more about drought's impacts on salmon and other fish.

Two AmeriCorps members wearing yellow hard hats carry sand bags through a rocky river bed.

WCC AmeriCorps members place sand bags along shallow overhangs to create a deeper stream for salmon to navigate upstream.

WCC helping fish in Pierce County

WCC got the call for help earlier this month. Supervisor Josh Williams' crew quickly responded, collecting 40 sandbags and heading to Wilkeson, Boise, and South Prairie creeks in Pierce County. They broke down rock dams and woody debris barriers to increase water flow and help fish passage. Our WCC members also placed sand bags along a shallow overhang in Wilkeson Creek to create an alternate, deeper route for salmon to navigate upstream.

WDFW also called two of our Port Angeles WCC crews to the Dungeness River. The Dungeness River relies on snowpack from the Olympic Mountains in the summer and into autumn; this winter’s lack of snowpack and the resulting shallow water have made it difficult for salmon to swim upstream successfully improving the Dungeness for fish travel.

Our members in supervisors' Phill VanKessel and Peter Allen’s crews repositioned in-stream rocks to sections of the river where water levels could become critically low. By creating many small diversion dams, salmon now have channels of deeper water to migrate upstream.

AmeriCorps members move rocks in the middle of a river to improve water flow for Salmon.

Individuals from Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s Natural Resources Department helped our WCC members and WDFW install the diversion dams.

Clearing clogged river beds for fish in Yakima

Our WCC members on supervisors' Matt Cone and Josh Perry’s crews were called to help the Benton Conservation District clear water star-grass, a native underwater plant, from shallow river beds along the Yakima River.

Due to this year’s extreme low flows, the mats of water star-grass were taking over the riverbed and clogging the river. Removing these mats will increase water flow for salmon migration. The project will also give salmon better access to the rocky river beds, where they spawn, or lay their eggs.

Our WCC crews do a variety of emergency response work, but it’s not often they get sent out for Emergency Fish Response. They deserve a huge shout-out to thank them for their great drought relief work. Awesome work, team!

Join WCC

Do you want to help the environment, meet great people and make a real difference? Join Ecology's Washington Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps Program program consisting of three subprograms: the core WCC, Veteran Conservation Corps and Puget SoundCorps.

See photos of the types of projects WCC members work on during their service in our WCC Projects Flickr set. Learn more and apply online today to become a member of WCC: www.ecology.wa.gov/wcc