Groups buy river valley to protect salmon

skokomish river: Flood-prone “Dips” is critical habitat

August 10, 2011 

A 160-acre chunk of the Skokomish River Valley – flood-prone, but critical salmon habitat – has been purchased for permanent protection by the Cascade Land Conservancy and its conservation partners.

Green Diamond Resource Co. sold 131 acres for $262,000, and private landowner Robert Rasmussen sold 29 acres for $110,000. The land trust used state grants to finance the deal.

The project site is near the confluence of the north and south forks of the Skokomish River and is known as the “Dips.” It usually is the first area of the river valley to flood during peak river flows.

The property also is important habitat for chinook salmon, which are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act; summer chum salmon, steelhead and bull trout; and coho, fall chum and cutthroat trout.

“Conserving these properties will make a positive impact on the region’s important salmon population and give our partners flexibility in their broader restoration goals in the Hood Canal Basin,” said Sam Gibboney, the land conservancy’s Olympic Peninsula conservation director. Those partners include the Hood Canal Coordinating Council and the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group.

Much of the area is within the river’s historic floodplain and is not fit for development due to the flood hazard. But portions of the Green Diamond property were suitable for some timber harvesting, noted Eric Shallon, Green Diamond manager of lands management and business development.

Shallon said the Shelton-based timber company is reviewing its timberland holdings and determined the most beneficial use for this property was habitat conservation.

The Skokomish River is the largest source of freshwater to Hood Canal. It also is home to the most frequently flooded river valley in the state, which threatens humans and salmon alike.

Acquisition of these properties will protect critical off-channel and floodplain habitat that benefits all the river’s salmon and trout species, plus provide a place for floodwaters to disperse.

Funding sources for the property purchase included the state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s landowner incentive program.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444 jdodge@theolympian.com

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