SEATTLE - The City of Seattle just purchased 84 acres of prime chinook and bull trout habitat to be preserved for fish restoration in the Skagit and the Tolt/Snoqualmie watersheds. The Skagit River has the largest run of wild chinook salmon and the largest bull trout population in Puget Sound. The Tolt is the largest of the three chinook bearing tributaries to the Snoqualmie River.
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels emphasized that the purchases are an important component of the city's salmon conservation strategies. "These acquisitions reaffirm the City's goal to recover salmon to sustainable, healthy harvestable levels in Puget Sound,” Nickels said.
The City enacted its land acquisition and restoration program in 1999 in response to the federal listings of Puget Sound chinook and bull trout as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The properties were purchased in part with Seattle City Light funds approved for land acquisition and matching funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Seattle City Light owns and operates hydroelectric projects on both the Skagit and Tolt Rivers. As the lead for Seattle's program in the Skagit and Tolt Basins, City Light works closely with stakeholders and local communities in targeting areas for habitat preservation and restoration.
Seattle City Councilmember Heidi Wills, chair of the city’s Energy and Environmental Policy Committee, praised the property purchases. "It is exciting to know that we will preserve these reaches of valuable habitat," she said. "Their selection is a perfect example of how we can make wise investments supported by good science for salmon recovery."
The two parcels purchased in the Skagit basin provide important off-channel rearing habitat for juvenile salmon, bull trout and steelhead. Fourteen acres near Sedro Wooley will help preserve the largest freshwater side channel habitat area remaining in the lower Skagit River. The 40-acre purchase near Darrington has a rich complex of beaver ponds and wetlands that are important to a variety of fish and wildlife.
Purchases in the lower part of the Tolt River near Carnation are within the active floodplain and contain important chinook spawning habitat. "We commend this move by Seattle," notes Carnation City Council member and nearby resident Bob Patterson. "This purchase is a helpful step toward our vision to provide river access for both people and fish." The City of Carnation is developing funds to purchase other nearby parcels for habitat protection. The Cascade Land Conservancy helped Seattle City Light acquire one of the parcels.
All property acquisitions for habitat purposes are consistent with the goals of the Skagit Watershed Council and the Snohomish River Basin Chinook salmon Near-term Action Agenda.