Seattle City Light has just assured that another 115 acres of prime habitat in the Skagit River Watershed are preserved for salmon. The property contains extremely high quality habitat for chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and bull trout. This purchase was made as part of the utility's "Early Action Plan" in response to the listing of Puget Sound Chinook as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The purchase includes some of the highest quality fish habitat in the Sauk River, the most productive tributary in the Skagit River basin for salmon and bull trout. Prior to its purchase, the parcel received the top ranking of properties reviewed by Skagit Watershed Council. If the city had not purchased the property, it would have very likely been developed.
"Seattle City Light proves once again to be an able and effective conservation partner," says Bob Carey of the Nature Conservancy of Washington. "This property is a gem from an ecological perspective, with some of the best salmon and eagle habitat in one of the healthiest reaches of the Skagit River system. This important habitat is now protected forever," Carey says.
The property features more than one mile of side channel habitat, essential for many salmon species, and one and a half miles of river front habitat. Mature riparian hardwoods and conifers (mainly western red cedar) dominate the landscape. Chinook, coho, chum, pink salmon and steelhead use this area for rearing and spawning. It also provides excellent foraging habitat for bull trout.
The purchase price was $475,000. Matching funds were provided to Seattle City Light through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The Skagit System Cooperative will provide additional funding to reconnect side channels and sloughs that are presently isolated from the mainstream river. This restoration will make the property even more desirable as a rearing habitat for salmon.