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Fish Issues
6/2008 Historical Record of Fish Related Issues (1897-1969)

“If the Salmon is to ever reach their historic levels in the Skagit River we must employ better logging and agricultural practices, curtail urban drainage and pollution, re-create the natural estuaries, increase spawning habitat areas, do a better job of regulating the flows from the dams and severely curtail the placing of nets in the river. I absolutely believe that unless these practices are instituted the Skagit Salmons demise is not only apparent but guaranteed. We will have no one to blame but ourselves.”

10/19/1927 The Influence Of A Power Dam In Modifying Conditions Affecting The Migration Of The Salmon, by Dr. Henry B. Ward, University of Illinois This document was retrieved from the University of Illinois.  Dr. Henry B. Ward first came to Skagit County in 1925.  "Dr. Henry B. Ward, professor of zoology at the University of Illinois and who is known as the leading authority in the United States on the sockeye salmon is spending several weeks in this city and at Baker lake is trying to study out some feasible means of getting the salmon past the power dam of the Stone & Webster company on the Baker river to the spawning grounds at Baker lake, and of getting the small salmon fry from the government hatchery at the lake down the Baker on their way to salt water."  (See 7/29/25 C.H.)  This is one of the first salmon studies ever performed in Skagit County.
2/23/1949 Letter to Corps from WDOG (re impacts of dam construction) Opposed building of Sauk, Cascade or Faber dams due to impacts on fish runs.  Stated Lower Baker dam had completely eliminated runs of cutthroat, spring Chinook and steelhead runs on Baker River.
2/25/1949 USFW letter to Corps (re dams at Faber & Sauk sites) Opposed to building of Sauk and Faber dams due to impacts on fish runs.  Withheld judgment on Upper Baker and Cascade River dams.
3/4/1949 Letter to Corps from WDOF (re impacts of dam construction) Opposed building of Lower Sauk, Upper Baker and Faber dams due to impacts on fish runs.  Not opposed to building of Avon By-Pass.
2/21/1952 Report on Survey for Flood Control of Skagit River and Tributaries “The existing reservoirs are not effective in preventing major flooding in the Skagit Valley, Diablo Reservoir is ordinarily maintained at a high level by Ross storage and has no flood storage, Shannon Lake is likewise held at a high level if stream flow permits, but an incidental degree of minor flood protection might be available if the reservoir should be drawn down because of deficient run-off before a flood, Ross Reservoir above Diablo has a large amount of storage, primarily for power, but the Federal Power Commission has required a reservation of winter flood control storage space. Studies are under way to determine the amount of such storage, and it is believed that it will not exceed 200,000 acre-feet. Because of its far upstream location Ross Reservoir storage cannot greatly reduce major floods on the lower Skagit River, The effectiveness of Ross storage in reducing peak discharges depends upon location of the storm center and other variable storm characteristics, Estimates based on average conditions indicate that crest reductions varying between 15,000 and 25,000 second-feet may be expected at Sedro Woolley.
1954 An Investigation of the Effect of Baker Dam on Downstream-Migrant Salmon - Full Report

The conclusions reached in this report show that “95% of the migrants leaving the reservoir used the surface spillway as their exit route and that less than 5% left through the turbine intake.”  Further the report concludes that In considering the rates of return of marked sockeye it is quite evident that the spillway fish suffered a higher mortality than the tunnel fish and that both suffered a higher mortality than the river releases” and “64% of the native Sockeye and 54% of the native Coho were killed in passing down the spillway.”

2/8/1961 Letter to Corps from DOF Opposed to building of more dams due to fact 65% of Spring Chinook spawning areas are on main stem of Skagit River.  Not opposed to building of Avon By-Pass.
2/8/1961 Summary of Public Hearing on Flood Control The Bypass project was favored by the Dept of Game and Fisheries because it would have no effect on the existing Skagit River fishery resources.”
7/2/1963 Tulalip Tribe Resolution #168-17 Opposition to Dredging Project Tulalips along with Swinomish and Lummi Indians threatened to sue Corps if they went ahead with dredging project or Sauk Dam.


Letter to GNRR President

Avon By-Pass again being considered.  GNRR concerned about involvement of Milo Moore (Fisheries Director) in development scheme in Fidalgo and Padilla Bays.


USACOE Avon Bypass Reactivation Report

Unregulated 100yr fld 250,000 to 300,000 cfs (pg 2); The 35-year level of flood protection provided by the Avon Bypass with levee and channel improvements would protect against 79 percent of average annual flood damages under present conditions.  These flood damages are 75 percent agricultural and only 25 percent urban.  Therefore, the project is now required essentially for the protection of agricultural lands, and the 35-year level of protection is well suited to present development.  . . .  The semi-pervious foundation conditions preclude any general raising of levees without extensive broadening of the levee sections, construction of cutoffs to reduce seepage, and relocation of the road systems adjacent to the levee system. (pg 4)  To achieve the same results as the Bypass and levee improvements, the channel would have to be widened from 300 to 600 feet from the downstream limits of Sedro Woolley to the mouth of the river, a distance of over 20 miles.  (pg 6)  ... At Mt. Vernon the 1932 flood of 140,000 c.f.s. has a 12-year frequency; the 1921 flood of 182,000 c.f.s. has a 30-year frequency; and a flood of 245,000 c.f.s, would have a 100-year frequency.  ... 278,000 at SW (Table 2)
11/1963 Objections to Avon Bypass by Swinomish Indian Tribal Community

Salmon fishing is the major source of livelihood for the Swinomish Indians, and denial or deprivation thereof would cause great hardship.

11/22/1963 Corps Avon Bypass Plan Informational Bulletin Plan would create a 8 mile long cold clear lake. U.S. Fish and Wildlife developed resident trout fisheries in Bypass. Minimum flow of 100 cfs required. Lower section of Bypass would be used for migratory fish rearing.
1/10/1964  Public Hearing Transcript; Corps mtg with Skagit County residents re Improvement Downstream Levees and adding Fisheries and Recreation to Avon ByPass. This public hearing transcript covers everything from dredging to the Sauk River Dam, to levee improvements, the Avon Bypass.  It is a wonderful snapshot in time on the issue of flood control.  Unfortunately, many of the views expressed at the public meeting are the same views being expressed by the uniformed today.  One of the better quotes from the document is from an old timer who passed away a few years ago.  "Let's have protection now, rather than 'Aid to a Disaster Area' later."
Zell A. Young, Welder, West Mt. Vernon, January 10, 1964 public hearing on Avon Bypass  
5/20/1964 USFW Interim Report to Corps While not opposed to the Avon By-Pass, wanted additional studies.
8/25/1967 DRAFT Resolution from WRAC to County Commissioners Purpose of FCZD was to raise taxes for flood control activities.  Agreed to comp plan (attached) that would raise levees to 8 year protection to include "fuse plugs" to eliminate critical levee failures.  In addition, a program of public information and control of the flood plain will be adopted to insure that developments are controlled and a false sense of security does not exist.
1972 Rebuilding the Once Great Salmon Runs of Swinomish Channel This document was provided to me by the Washington Bulb Company and describes the reasons that the former Washington State Department of Fisheries director felt were the reasons for the demise of the salmon runs in Swinomish Slough.
4/22/1975 Ltr to Representative Meeds fm BCC re Wild & Scenic River Study "The immediate purpose of this letter is to request that you direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to undertake feasibility studies of a flood control dam on the  Sauk River and that you secure necessary funds to allow completion of these studies as soon as possible."
4/9/1976 Swinomish Tribal Community ltr to Seattle District USACE re Swinomish Channel Dredging DEIS "Overall, however, it (Swinomish trap and drag seining catch) has exhibited more or less the same fluctuations in level of production as other local Indian fisheries (Tulalip, Samish, and Lummi) and there is no apparent relationship between catch and channel maintenance operations. "  It is surprising to see a statement such as this which boldly contradicts graphed trends which you, as well as we, have on file (See Exhibits • la, lb, 1c). There is an expressed decline in both Chinook and Chum catches immediately following the 1937 jetty construction. Furthermore, these declines are local in nature deviating from ether Indian fishery trends to the immediate north and south near the mouths of neighboring rivers.  . . . The only other major environmental change at this time which could have so dramatically affected the fish catch was the jetty construction in 1937.  . . . It may be difficult to show statistically that dike construction diminished the number of fish because of all the variables. However, it would be even more difficult to draw the conclusion that "dike construction probably did not diminish the number of fish." Certainly, important fish habitat and access was diminished. Logically, the fact that the number of fish was diminished would be a more reasonable conclusion than that the number was not diminished by the dike construction.  . . . It has always been this Tribal Community's policy to work cooperatively.  To us, this means a two-way give-and-take relationship. 
4/22/1976 Corps DF re Environmental Assessment of Levee Repairs After 1975 Flood Event Repairs took place on Cockreham Island.  Skagit floods "characterized by sharp rises of relatively short duration from October through March."  . . .  "The Skagit River system produces more runoff than any other river basin in the Puget Sound area."  100 year flood 266,000 cfs.  50-year flood 224,000 cfs.  Zero damage 60,000 cfs.  Present levee system with 2ft of freeboard 84,000 to 130,000 cfs or 3 to 11 year protection.  . . . Ross Dam controls about 30 percent of the basin's runoff with 120,000 acre-ft of storage space. . . . During the 1972-1973 collection period,  nearly 14,400 salmon were captured,  trucked, and  released into Baker Lake and adjoining artificial spawning beaches . They consisted  of 10,000 sockeye , 4, 000  coho, 250  chinook , and 30  chum.  In  addition, 50 steelhead trout were captured and released.  . . . The damaged areas at the   town  of Hamilton, and the  four damaged portions between Hamilton and Lyman occurred  where the  high water flow  was  either restricted or at a sharp  change in direction without adequate floodway area to handle the  resulting turbulence.  The floodwater was most destructive where the levee was breached; in some of these cases the water velocity cut a channel from the river through the vegetated bench and beyond into the agricultural area. . . . The greatest loss to fish will be the loss of eggs placed in the gravels by spawning fish prior to the flood.
3/11/1977 Planning Aid Letter to ACOE fm US Fish and Wildlife Service re proposed channel and levee improvement project "This letter reflects our current thinking on these proposed improvements.  Our 1974 (sic 1964) report indicated the channel and levee improvements . .   would have little effect on fish and fishing. . . . Effects on wildlife were also predicted to be minimal."  "However, . . .we believe several very positive features may be incorporated in the project including:  Fencing to prevent cattle grazing on top and riverward levee slopes. Reseeding and cleanup of trash and debris along inner levee slopes to facilitate unrestricted passage of flood water..."
3/11/1977 USFW letter to Corps (re Levee Improvements) Did not oppose levee improvements however wanted cattle fenced off from river access, and vegetation left along riverbanks.
4/27/1978 Corps response to Swinomish Executive Director re his comments on the Swinomish Channel Maintenance Dredging DEIS

Your letter of 9 April 1976 provided detailed comments on the Swinomish Channel Maintenance Dredging draft environmental statement. Your comments concerning the draft statement were not included in .the final environmental statement because we received them approximately 8 months after the deadline for public comment. Although we have discussed the comments with representatives of the Swinomish Tribal Community and various resource agency personnel, we delayed our formal response until we had examined all sources of information which were available.. . . .Response: The Goat Island dike, built in 1937, reduced the amount of Skagit River 'water reaching the fishtraps and oyster beds on the southern and southwestern shores of the reservation. Furthermore, the amount of Skagit River water flowing through the Swinomish Channel. was greatly reduced.    "For the period 1890 to 1970, and especially since 1937, most of the sediment from the North Fork of the Skagit has passed between Goal and lka Islands, fanned out, and come to rest on the cast bank of. Saratoga Passage."

"Average per trap catches of Coho salmon from both Indian and non-Indian fishtraps in Skagit Bay, while showing large annual fluctuations, began declining in the early 1930's, several years before the Goat Island jetty was constructed.  Catches of Chinook salmon also declined in the early 1930's, increased in 1936, and then decreased again."
8/21/1978 Dept. of Fisheries memo to Corps re Project DOF has a number of salmon enhancement programs planned for the Skagit River Basin.  . . . Skagit Hatchery--Spring Chinook egg takes for 1976 and 1977 were 30 ; 000 and 170,000 respectively. Summer Chinook egg takes for corresponding years were about 400,000 annually. . . . Chum salmon about 25 million, the eggs to be taken from native stocks.  Baker River Hatchery -- 2.5 million Coho smolts and 10 million chum (chum to be put into Nooksack River, Coho to Skagit.)  “Presently there is a fry stranding problem in the lower Skagit which results from peaking hydroelectric dam discharge. During the spring juveniles become trapped along sand bars and perish as the river recedes. Stream bank modification resulting in alteration of geo-hydraulic patterns could create additional sand bars, providing additional stranding areas.”
8/25/1978 Washington State Department of Game ltr to USACE re Comments on Game Fish Concerns "We are not able to calculate game fish catches for your project area specifically nor are we in a position to provide escapement numbers.  . . .  Steelhead are the most intensively sought after and economically valuable game fish using the project area: In past years, more steelhead were harvested in Skagit River fisheries than from any other stream in Western Washington. Others, including sea-run cutthroat and Dolly Varden char, generate substantial additional value and public interest. Annual Skagit Basin steelhead catch, over past 16 seasons, has averaged 14,000. This harvest has ranged to over 22,000 during peak seasons under favorable survival conditions.  . . .  Department of Game has substantial plans for enhancement and restoration of game fish resources of Skagit Basin. Present goals for our Barnaby-Harrison Slough facility include a 25 percent increase in winter-run steelhead and a sixfold increase in summer steelhead smolt production. We have recently developed a rearing facility on Sauk River to enhance late returning wild stock returns to that system. Collectively these plans, if successful, will more than double the total adult steelhead return to Skagit Basin.  As you may be aware, existing hydroelectric developments in Skagit Basin are causing severe damages to wild fish production.
9/5/1978 USACE DF re Environmental Input to Design of Downstream Levees Of major concern to the resource agencies is the placement of riprap into the -river as it modifies shoreline habitat and can be detrimental to salmon resources for which the shore zone is the primary migration and rearing area. A second major concern is the removal of existing riparian vegetation which provides food cover and other benefits to fish and wildlife. These concerns are the basis for which the following recommendations are made. In developing them, it has been assumed that there will be no channel improvements on the North Fork or on Freshwater Slough.  . . .  1) That a minimal amount of riprap be placed into the river.  2) That in certain cases where the placement of riprap is necessary, a relatively large size be utilized in -the river to provide some replacement of habitat for fish.  That riprap placement he avoided on the inside bank of bends in the river.  These areas provide shallow, lower velocity resting and rearing areas for migrating juvenile salmonids.
9/15/1978 Corps MFR re 3rd Biweekly Review Meeting for Skagit Levee Channel Improvement Project "The latest negotiations with the Fish and Wildlife Service have resulted in the projected submittal of their draft report in conformance with the project schedule. . . . Available information will be furnished to the Fish and Wildlife Service and they will have another 60 days to complete their evaluation, which means it will not be completed until mid-November (1978) after the draft EIS is scheduled for completion."     (See USFW Final Report to Corps  dated 4/6/1979.)  "Writing of the report has not started."   
9/28/1978 Corps MFR re meeting with County officials re riprap and levee heights ". . .agencies are primarily concerned about removal of riparian habitat and placement of riprap within the river. Where that is not possible, the placement of large pieces of riprap can provide needed shelter for small fish."  ... We explained that we had selected the levee height for the downstream levees (the 120,000 cfs profile+ 6 feet). This design would include about 1.8 feet for aggradation and 2 feet for freeboard. '  . . . We then discussed the problems of the Samish overflow (peak overflow discharge with levees would be about the same but the volume would be greater because of a longer duration."
10/6/1978 Corps MFR re Environmental Coordination Corps had meetings with DOG, DOF and Skagit System Cooperative.  " The agencies are pleased with the reduction in the amount of riprap from that shown them on 29 August and with the removal from the project of any plans for channel improvements. It is noted that in several locations where riprap is to be placed, riprap exists under current conditions; therefore, one could expect the impacts of additional placement to be less than in areas where riprap currently is not present."  "Fisher Slough... All indicated that this is a prime cutthroat fishing area with spawning occurring both in Fisher and Carpenter Creek Drainages.
12/12/1978 Corps MFR re mtg w/US Fish and Wildlife Other ideas for mitigation discussed were the establishment of a preservation area where the land is currently reverting to wetlands on the right bank of the North Fork just south of the North Fork bridge around Station 1000 and the reestablishment of a riparian vegetation zone on the left bank of the South Fork on Georgia Pacific Corporation's island (Stations 1150-1040).
1/24/1979 USFW letter to Corps (re Levee Improvements) Comments directed towards lack of impacts to the Bald Eagle due to the levee construction proposed.
1/24/1979 United States Fish and Wildlife Service ltr to Corps re Section 7 consultation as require by Endangered Species Act of 1973 Addressed flood control levee project impacts on eagles only.  "Very few, if any salmon spawn in the Skagit River below Rockport within the project boundaries." 
1/31/1979 Skagit System Cooperative ltr to Corps re Levee Impacts on the Fishery Resource "The interest of the Skagit System Cooperative is to maintain natural production of salmonids in the Skagit basin at least at the present levels. In fact, some populations are gradually increasing."
3/10/1979 Corps new language for draft GDM Elimination of Channel Improvements:  The authorized project recommended channel improvements (excavation and widening) to increase the hydraulic capacity of the Skagit River below MV. . . . Total proposed excavation was $1,466,600 cu yds over a total length of 2.5 miles. . . . The channelization features of the authorized project met with opposition from resource agencies and members of the public.  . . .  Major environmental impacts. . . to fisheries due to the loss of shallow vegetated shore zone habitat, critical rearing area for juvenile anadromous fish during their out migration; impacts to water quality. . . alteration of sediment deposition patterns as a result of channelization. . . . any significant impacts to fisheries as a result of the propose channel improvements.  Loss of fish could impact upriver Bald Eagles.  Channel improvements also would have unacceptable impacts on set net fishing areas used by the Swinomish Indian Tribe below the North Fork.
4/6/1979 USFW Final Report to Corps This document at best represents an effortless approach to public agency comment ability.
1/28/1992 DOF ltr to Senator Anderson This policy has a goal of no net loss of productive capacity of fish habitat. . . . As noted in Mr. Haring's testimony, proposals for vegetation removal from gravel bars are reviewed on a site-specific basis to determine the impacts to fish life. WDF also considers increased flood risk if the vegetation is to be left in place, although our expertise is in evaluation of impacts to fish life.
7/22/1992 Skagit System Cooperative ltr to Skagit County re Sediment Pond Construction on Hansen Creek “...this project as proposed, will have adverse impacts upon the treaty protected fisheries' resources in the Hansen Creek watershed.”
10/28/1996 Skagit System Cooperative ltr to DFW re Hansen Creek Dredging and Red Creek Flood Gate “We need to get away from the "same old way" of handling these chronic problems.”
8/21/1997 Skagit Fisheries Investigation Feasibility Study It has been inferred that the massive loss of slough habitat in the lower Skagit River has reduced overwintering productivity of the river and placed increasing pressure on the few remaining sloughs.  A survey should be completed to quantify the amount of slough habitat currently open to fish passage along the project area and to quantify any further loss of slough habitat due to the proposed project.  If  losses occur beyond the current condition, engineering solutions to retain adequate fish passage should be devised.
8/31/1998 Preliminary Assessment of Historic Conditions of the Skagit River in the Fir Island Area: Implications for Salmonid Habitat Restoration “This investigation describes current and historic conditions of distributary and blind-tidal channels of the lower Skagit River, downstream from where it branches into the North and South forks and forms Fir Island before entering Skagit Bay. The study is pan of a larger effort by the Skagit System Coop to document salmonoid habitat use and estimate historic habitat loss and its potential for future restoration. ”
9/17/1998 Dept of Fish & Wildlife Ltr to Skagit County re Hanson Creek Dredging Project “The less frequent the dredging, the fewer fish are killed and the more the channel and bank vegetation can recover. ”
10/10/2000 Letter to District Engineer, Corps of Engineers Seattle District - Re: Planning Aid Letter; Skagit River Flood Feasibility Study “Levees have channelized the river and isolated the flood plain, nearly eliminating flood plain storage of water, sediments, and nutrients. The loss of flood plain function has exacerbated flood problems and disrupted ecological functioning. By precluding lateral movement of flood waters, levees reduce groundwater recharge, important for retaining a natural range of variability of flows to which salmon have adapted. Routing of nutrients is also disrupted.
Of all the structural measures discussed as part of the Skagit River Flood Feasibility Study, we believe that setback levees hold the most promise for restoring natural processes in the Skagit. Setback levees would increase the river 5 connectivity with its flood plain and would allow more room for water storage and conveyance in high flow events. Loss of flood plain storage has worsened flooding and habitat for fish, so it makes sense to reverse that process by pulling back the levees.

This document was submitted to the 2011 Skagit River GI  Scoping Efforts by the City of Burlington.


WG Minutes

Presentation by USFWS re their concerns about fish vs flood control.  Lou Ellyn explained that fish have adapted to a system with a variety of natural processes. The Skagit River system previously had large floodplain storage and a large amount of vegetation along the riverbanks. In this system, the water would spread out laterally from the river during a flood causing the water to have a gentler rise. Currently, the river is channelized by the levees, causing the water to rise quickly and destructively.  Any efforts that the County and the Working Group take to regain the original flood plain function will help the fish population levels because it restores their natural habitat.  Setbacks and ring dikes are alternatives that would benefit fish. Non-structural alternatives, such as relocation and early warnings, are also good. Lou Ellyn noted these value statements are made in regards to fish and river function.  . . .  the levee system can flush these anadromous fish out of the river system  . . .  Dick noted that the salmon problem is so severe that if nothing is done immediately all of the fish will be lost.  Corps Update:  Stephen Pierce provided the group with an overview of the Corps activities to date. In 1993 the Corps finished its reconnaissance study, which provided the basis for the current funding. The current schedule shows that the Corps will be finished with the EIS and FS in 2003. The project will go for authorization and appropriation under the Water Resources Development Act in 2004. The design of the plan will occur in 2004 and 2005. Construction is slated to begin in 2006.

5/7/2001 US Fish and Wildlife Service Planning Aid Letter, Skagit River Flood Feasibility Study

This letter is in response to the last Skagit Flood Risk Management Workgroup, dated April 26, 2001. At that meeting, we learned that the local sponsor, Skagit County, is considering removal of the language that incorporates appropriate fish and wildlife habitat improvements as part of the project purpose.


WG Minutes

The new riprap will be placed as deep as the old.  In response to a question, he agreed that the riprap could not be shallower than the depth of the river to ensure that the levee would not be undercut.  . . .  Several people were emphatic that they believed dikes should be protected with riprap.  Mike replied that he and the agencies recognized the need to protect the dikes.  He believed that a riparian area would be possible in conjunction with well-protected dikes.  . . . Ed Capasso noted that the Mayor of Anacortes wrote a letter to Ecology expressing concerns about water quality and quantity surrounding the potential diversions.  As a result there were still major issues about diverting water to a bypass.  . . .  Mike pointed out that the numerous high priority concerns on the resource agencies’ list of questions for the Swinomish diversion indicate serious potential problems with that alternative.  These potential difficulties include water rights, saltwater intrusion, tidegates and maintenance of the channel.  Continuing to review the list of resource agency concerns, Mike noted that the setbacks option only had one urgent question: riprap.  It had become clear that the new levees would need to be protected with riprap, but that riprap in the existing river channel would be detrimental to the fish.  The Samish diversion also had one major question on the list of concerns.   Because of the potential for mixing of fish stocks, there might be a jeopardy call from the National Marine Fisheries Service.  . . .  The Swinomish diversion was defined to be between SR 20 and about a mile south of SR 20.  Todd asked how the location for Alternative 1 was chosen. The Corps responded that it had been chosen to follow the low land and to avoid structures wherever possible.  . . .  Dave Brookings mentioned that he had heard from Larry Wasserman, who concurred with moving the two alternatives identified by the group and the do nothing alternative forward.


COE draft response to 5/7/2001 FWS ltr

The primary purpose of this project is Flood Damage Reduction.  Whether or not the project purpose contains “fish and wildlife habitat improvements,” environmental features will still be part of any constructed project.  We assure you that the Corps will implement a project that adequately mitigates for any potential impacts to fish and wildlife resources.

10/22/2001 Governor Gary Locke Endorsement of the GI Study “Of course, any flood bypass proposal must address decisions concerning future land use of the existing floodplain, as well as design features critical for fish habitat. In addition, it must consider transportation corridors and impacts upon stream flow, existing water rights, and the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. An Environmental Impact Statement that satisfactorily addresses these concerns could be the critical next step in this project, and we stand ready to assist you in its preparation.”
1/3/2002 Department of Ecology Letter RE: Skagit River GI Study/Skagit Feasibility Study/EIS & Avon Bypass Impacts on Padilla Bay “An EIS for the Skagit Feasibility Study that fails to evaluate the effects of diverting floodwater into Padilla Bay will be flawed and potentially undermine successful funding and permitting of the project. ... The Department of Ecology has committed over $1 million to Skagit County in support of the Skagit Feasibility Study. It is essential for the project to have an EIS that fairly and objectively analyses potential project impacts. Competition for public funds, permitting issues and public trust in the project hinge on a viable EIS.”
5/8/2002 Biological Assessment of Proposed Interim Conservation Measures for Puget Sound Chinook Salmon Pending Relicensing

Construction of an extensive system of levees and revetments, in combination with flood control by the Skagit and Baker Projects has allowed continued development of the former floodplain. Land uses such as agriculture, urban and residential development, and construction of infrastructure (roads, bridges, drainage systems) have permanently altered the valley landscape. The operation and maintenance of existing flood control facilities by Skagit County is dependent on flood control operations by the upstream hydroelectric projects.

7/9/2002 News Release Showing Partnership between Corps of Engineers and Nature Conservancy Interesting to note there was no mention of the Baker River Dams which later the Nature Conservancy worked to make sure no additional storage would be made available for flood reduction impacts on the landowners along the Skagit River.
7/9/2002 Series of e-mails expressing concern over TNC/Corps Joint Press Release “If that is not possible we can do damage control with Seattle City Light (Ross, etc.) and Puget Sound Energy (who operates the Baker River projects) but it benefits neither USACE nor TNC to create the impression that we are going to conspire to dictate operational changes to dams neither of us owns.
5/28/2004 Draft Biological Opinion for Endangered Species Act Section 7 Consultation for the Baker River Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 2150).  NOAA Fisheries Consultation No. 2002/01040.

Dam storage is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Puget Sound chinook salmon.

3/2008 PSE Fish Enhancement Handout

PSE one-page handout describing their "fish enhancement" efforts.


Press Release: "PSE’s new Baker River $50 million fish passage system generating success in first few weeks of operation"

“With more than 200,000 juvenile sockeye already collected, the out-migration is peaking as the second highest total run on record and may be on pace to shatter the existing record” with new PSE fish gulper.

5/28/2008 Wenatchee World Editorial: Good work for salmon at sea We have talked, argued, studied and invested billions in the last 30 years to help more salmon migrate from their birthplace to the Pacific. Much less has been said about how to get more mature salmon back from the sea, to perform the essential function of reproducing.”  Not eating them would help.
9/22/2008 Endangered Species Act – Section 7 Consultation Final Biological Opinion and Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Essential Fish Habitat Consultation for the Implementation of the National Flood Insurance Program in the State of Washington Phase One Document – Puget Sound Region

“The primary element of FEMA’s minimum criteria that affects listed salmonids and their habitats is the requirement to elevate structures so that the lowest floor of construction is at or above the BFE (the discussion in this paper focuses on riverine examples, but there are similar standards for coastal areas). The placement of fill in the floodplain displaces salmonid habitat, and the associated development results in the placement of additional fill to support infrastructure and in increased pollution, stormwater runoff, vegetation removal, and other adverse effects..”

10/21/2008 Letter to Mount Vernon Mayor Bud Norris, re: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Biological Opinion (BO) of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

We all have a legal responsibility to ensure our actions do not cause a take (harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct) to threatened or endangered species. Under Section 9 of the ESA, actions or decisions enacted by you and your officials are subject to this prohibition regardless of federal involvement. Additionally, any person can be subject to criminal or civil penalties for causing a take. NMFS considers the issuance of floodplain development permits without addressing the impacts on listed species or their critical habitat as a take under the Endangered Species Act.

1/22/2009 Safeguarding Coasts and Floodplains for Fish, Wildlife and People

National Wildlife Federation (NWF) explains why they sued to reform FEMA in an era of climate change.  NWF states their prime motivation as the existence of a  “NFIP subsidy fueling harmful development of coastal and floodplain habitats”.

1/22/2009 NMFS BiOp on FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The National Marine Fisheries Service claims among the effects of the NFIP are that it “Allows fill and levees (no insurance) and development”. The presentation also states what in their opinion FEMA must do going forward in its administration of the NFIP.

1/22/2009 ESA and the National Flood Insurance Program

“FEMA recognizes and acknowledges the importance of preserving critical salmon habitat and believes that the NFIP’s core mission of reducing flood risks to life and property are not mutually exclusive.”

9/15/2009 ESA and the National Flood Insurance Program: Implementing a salmon friendly program 28 slide presentation explaining the path forward as, “FEMA recognizes the need to protect threatened and endangered salmon species while continuing the successful implementation of the NFIP in the Pacific Northwest.”
9/15/2009 FEMA Region X: A New Vision for the Future NOW A FEMA Region X presentation to the 2009 Northwest Regional Floodplain Management Association (NORFMA).  Includes this statement, “FEMA feels that land use and flood control practices that protect salmon and their critical habitat also means implementing good floodplain management that will ultimately reduce damages to flood.”
10/13/2009 R2 Resource Consultants Presentation: Environmental Effects of High Water Events Middle Skagit River, Washington 11-slide presentation reviewing the impacts of floods on Chinook salmon survival.  May want to see slide 9 where years following recent major flood events have direct correlation to lack of young salmon survival in the Skagit.

This document was submitted to the 2011 Skagit River GI  Scoping Efforts by the City of Burlington.
1/2010 Model Ordnance: Floodplain Management and the Endangered Species Act Current recommendation from FEMA Region X on a draft model ordinance for all local jurisdictions to implement. 

Letter to FEMA Region X on behalf of the Washington REALTORS®, several local associations of the Washington REALTORS, the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, several local building associations, and several private property owners with property in King, Snohomish and Skagit Counties re: FEMA's Model Ordinance for Biological Opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service

“As a foundational comment, FEMA's Model Ordinance suffers the same fatal flaw as the BiOp itself: it is bipolar. On the one hand, the BiOp repeatedly acknowledges that the majority of the 100 year floodplain and floodplain habitat in the Puget Sound region has been modified, channelized or otherwise developed and, therefore, provides no habitat functions or benefits for endangered species. BiOp at 146. At the same time, the BiOp asserts that virtually every inch of the 100 year floodplain in the Puget Sound region should be protected from development to achieve the BiOp' s goal of ensuring that development in the floodplain "will not result in adverse habitat effects." BiOp at 156.”

See also: Endangered Species Act – Section 7 Consultation Final Biological Opinion
7/14/2011 Treaty Rights at Risk: Ongoing Habitat Loss, the Decline of the Salmon Resource, and Recommendations for Change “The government’s piecemeal approach to recovery has resulted in a lack of agency consistency and ultimately the implementation of federal programs that serve neither to recover salmon nor protect treaty rights. For example, many federally funded environmental and conservation grant programs are not required to protect salmon. Instead, in many cases those programs rely on a planning process that ultimately lets the landowner decide what is best for salmon, even if those choices are contrary to federally approved total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) or federally-approved salmon recovery plans.”
8/10/2011 Swinomish "Possible Environmental Effects for Potential Measures" of Any Flood Risk Reduction Projects “...improvements to levees will increase the amount of rock in the river, remove vegetation, and probably increase bed scour due to the transfer of energy from the rock faces.”
See also: Corps of Engineers 2011 Scoping Efforts, 9/7/2011 Swinomish Tribal Community Ltr to Corps of Engineers Re: Skagit General Investigation Scoping Comments
9/7/2011 Swinomish Tribal Community Ltr to Corps of Engineers Re: Skagit General Investigation Scoping Comments “As we have stated from the onset, the Tribe cannot take a position regarding the acceptability of any the alternatives until adequate environmental studies are done to determine the extent, if any, to Tribal fisheries resources. Our position has been consistent in this regard, as can be observed in the letter (attached) sent to the Corps in 1963 detailing our concerns regarding the Avon Bypass. Therefore, a common concern that has not yet been adequately addressed is the lack of environmental analysis that has been undertaken to date as part of the GI study. Given the financial resources available to the Corps and time frame that you are striving to complete the study, we are concerned that the environmental analysis necessary to make informed decisions will be lacking.”
11/15/2011 Letter to Governor Gregoire, Re: Skagit lnstream Flow Rule

“Swinomish Chairman Cladoosby recently told the three of us that he intends to control land use in the Skagit Basin by controlling the water supply, effectively bypassing Growth Management Act (GMA) process. From our standpoint, this sentiment explains the present conflict over water rights in the Skagit Basin. ... Skagit County has prohibited most development on floodplain, farmland, and forestland, consistent with the GMA. The stream basins at issue are the same narrow swath of pre-foothill land in Skagit County identified under the GMA for limited rural growth.”
See also: 11/17/2011 Letter to Governor Chris Gregoire, Re: Skagit County Government Letter on Skagit Instream Flow Rule

11/10/2011 Baker Hydroelectric Project Imminent Flood Reservoir Drawdown: Why Drawing Down the Reservoirs In Advance of a Skagit Basin Flood Reduces Flood Risk, Improves Salmon Survival, and Increases Power Generation Updated 19 slide presentation with the benefits of flood protection, fish enhancement, and power generation.  The idea is to drawdown before an imminent flood to be able to stop outflow during the crest of flood events.  This strategy is to protect salmon eggs and hydropower capacity plus reduce amount of necessary dam storage in between flood events.
11/17/2011 Letter to Governor Chris Gregoire, Re: Skagit County Government Letter on Skagit Instream Flow Rule “It is a lie for the County to say that the Swinomish Tribe intends to control off-Reservation land use in the Skagit River basin by controlling water supply, and it is a lie to say that I told the County Commissioners any such thing. These repeated lies can only confuse and inflame the public. So let there be no doubt: the Swinomish Tribe does not want to control off-Reservation land use in Skagit County. But it does want the County and Ecology to follow the law and live up to their agreements.”
See also: 11/15/2011 Letter to Governor Gregoire, Re: Skagit lnstream Flow Rule
11/21/2011 County Commissioners Letter to Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, RE: Skagit Instream Flow Rule “We respect that your expression of tribal sovereignty involves vigorous advocacy for salmon, and there is little question Swinomish has become a force in the salmon habitat restoration industry. Yet Swinomish is a significant participant ¡n Skagit County's economy and community in many other ways, which deserves due consideration when contemplating major environmental litigation involving the land and homes of thousands of Skagit County citizens. Nearly two decades of litigation over salmon habitat has accomplished very little for salmon, has wasted millions on legal fees that could have otherwise been used for on-the-ground habitat restoration and other constituent needs, and, perhaps most unfortunate, has perpetrated a cycle of animosity in our community.”
See also: 11/17/2001 Letter to Governor Chris Gregoire, Re: Skagit County Government Letter on Skagit Instream Flow Rule
11/28/2011 County Commissioners Letter to Governor Gregoire, Re: Water Rights in the Skagit River Basin  County responds to the Swinomish "Liar, Liar pants on fire" letter.  “At this point, as nearly as we can ascertain, the reason for the continued controversy arises from the desire to create new judicial precedent limiting the scope of Ecology's power to establish exempt well reservations, something mostly relevant to other river basins besides Skagit. ... Extensive litigation capability frequently drives its own employment in search of a justification for the expense involved. While we comprehend why Swinomish staff continues to vigorously advocate for more litigation over the Skagit Instream Flow Rule in close conjunction with CELP, we strongly believe that effort is against the interests of both Skagit Basin salmon stocks and our community, including the members of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.”
See also: 11/15/2011 Letter to Governor Gregoire, Re: Skagit lnstream Flow Rule, 11/17/2011 Letter to Governor Chris Gregoire, Re: Skagit County Government Letter on Skagit Instream Flow Rule, 11/21/2011 County Commissioners Letter to Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, RE: Skagit Instream Flow Rule
12/6/2011 Letter to County Commissioners, Re: Skagit River Basin Instream Flow Rule “Regarding our shared commitment to exercise our respective regulatory authorities in a coordinated and complimentary fashion, I am very concerned about recent public information materials from the County. These materials have asserted that the County does not have any role in water resources management. This is clearly not the case, as the Washington Supreme Court ruled recently in Kittitas County v. Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board. In fact, according to the Supreme Court, counties have a very important role in water management. The court held that in making a land-use decision, it is the local government-and not Ecology-that is responsible for making the decision on water adequacy as part of its land-use decision. However, the court recognizes that Ecology should endeavor to provide assistance to counties in making such land-use decisions, as needed, to ensure adequate protection of water resources. It is critically important that we find a way to move this conversation forward in a coordinated and complimentary fashion.”
See also:  11/15/2011 Letter to Governor Gregoire, Re: Skagit lnstream Flow Rule, 11/28/2011 County Commissioners Letter to Governor Gregoire, Re: Water Rights in the Skagit River Basin, 12/7/2011 Letter to State Department of Ecology Director, Re: Director Letter of Dec. 6, 2011
12/7/2011 Letter to State Department of Ecology Director, Re: Director Letter of Dec. 6, 2011 Skagit County is more than willing to cooperate and fulfill our obligations under the law and our agreement with Ecology, and there is no evidence we have done otherwise. As we have repeatedly communicated to the Governor in recent days, Skagit County is not asking for a larger exempt well allocation. Moreover, Skagit County has and will continue to ascertain whether permit applicants possess a lawful water source, as required by the Kittitas decision. Since we already have the most restrictive scheme in place in the Skagit Basin and no other Skagit treaty tribe supports Swinomish on this issue, we view the threat of treaty rights adjudication as unnecessary. We fully support the list of solutions identified on page 3 of your letter, but these put the cart before the horse. Pervasive litigation by Swinomish attacking nearly every aspect of the basin reservation system - as opposed to any shortcoming on the County's part - explains the problems over which your December 6 letter expresses concern.
See also:  11/15/2011 Letter to Governor Gregoire, Re: Skagit lnstream Flow Rule, 11/17/2011 Letter to Governor Chris Gregoire, Re: Skagit County Government Letter on Skagit Instream Flow Rule, 11/21/2011 County Commissioners Letter to Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, RE: Skagit Instream Flow Rule, 11/28/2011 County Commissioners Letter to Governor Gregoire, Re: Water Rights in the Skagit River Basin, 12.6/2011 Letter to County Commissioners, Re: Skagit River Basin Instream Flow Rule
12/21/2011 The Seattle Times: Battle escalates over building in flood plains “More than a decade after government biologists first warned the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that allowing development in flood plains is helping kill salmon and orcas, environmental groups on Wednesday turned to their most potent — and controversial — weapon: They asked a federal judge in Seattle for an emergency injunction that would effectively halt a sizable chunk of the building in flood-prone areas until FEMA finds a way to make sure it won't harm endangered fish or whales.
“...While it's impossible to know how much construction might be curtailed, the National Wildlife Federation says its review of FEMA data suggests 700 to 800 new structures have been built in flood plains in the three years since the biologists said the practice must change. "Salmon are going over the edge, and we've waited years for it to change and it hasn't," said Jan Hasselman, an attorney with the environmental legal firm Earthjustice, which filed the motion in federal court. "As far as we can tell, not one project has been prevented, delayed, reconfigured or reconsidered" since 2008.
12/30/2011 Letter to County Commissioners, Re: Skagit River Basin Instream Flow Rule “Thank you for your follow-up letter of December 7, 2011, regarding the Skagit Instream Flow Rule. I am pleased to hear that we have a mutual commitment to finding solutions to the water supply problems in the Nookachamps and Fisher/Carpenter Sub-basins of the Skagit Watershed. As you point out in your letter, we also recognize the difficulties presented by the ongoing lawsuit brought by the Swinomish Tribe.”
See also:  11/15/2011 Letter to Governor Gregoire, Re: Skagit lnstream Flow Rule, 11/28/2011 County Commissioners Letter to Governor Gregoire, Re: Water Rights in the Skagit River Basin, 12/7/2011 Letter to State Department of Ecology Director, Re: Director Letter of Dec. 6, 2011
1/2012 Biological and Physical Effects of “Fish-Friendly” Tide Gates Final Report for the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, January 2012 Biological effects. Increased tidal connectivity appeared to improve cumulative density of juvenile Chinook salmon rearing above tide gates at one of two BACI sites. At Fisher Slough, the replacement of manually and passively operating side-hinged gates with side hinged SRT gates was followed by a reduction in the cumulative density ratio by over 80% (Fig. 11A). This loss in cumulative density resulted in the tide gate cumulative density ratio decreasing from nearly 50% to 10% of Fisher’s reference site before and after SRT installation, respectively.”
5/9/2012 Letter to the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community “Tribe does not oppose Anacortes exercising its existing water right (including its decision to sell water to Tethys) and does not agree that science demonstrates that the Tethys contract will harm salmon in the ways and to the degree you speculate below. Therefore, the Tribe is unable to take any role in opposing the Anacortes-Tethys contract.”
5/9/2012 Swinomish Tribal Concerns RE: Skagit General Investigation Study Tribe is concerned about changing hydrology due to climate change; Baker River Dam Operation and Storage; floodplain growth patterns due to flood control efforts; water rights; Fir Island Bypass; leaving existing levees after building setback levees; alleged shortcuts “to the analysis of Treaty-reserved fisheries resources.”

Furthermore, “We are concerned that although we have been involved .in this process since 1993, it is only now, after an expenditure of millions of dollars, that the necessary environmental studies are being identified. It is unclear to us how studies associated with impacts to fish, fish habitat and consequences of climate change, can be accomplished in the next few years and with the limited budget that your staff has identified. In the past, when inadequate resources were available to undertake studies, assumptions mutually agreeable to the Tribe, federal agencies and the Corps of Engineers ("Corps") were identified to expedite environmental review. It is unclear to us how the Corps intends to fill in these gaps at this point in time. Having stated this overreaching concern, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (the "Tribe") would like to identify the following concerns that may constitute "fatal flaws":”
5/16/2012 Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS on the NFIP FEMA is proposing to modify the NFIP from the way it is currently administered to include enhanced environmental and historic preservation considerations including but not limited to climate change, and the impacts of the program on endangered and threatened species and critical habitat. FEMA will also account for program changes that have taken place since the publication of the 1976 Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Revised Floodplain Management Regulations of the National Flood Insurance Program.”
6/15/2012 E-mail to Corps fm USFWS  “We encourage the Corps to draft alternatives that include promoting setbacks wherever possible, appreciable restoration or enhancement of functional riparian corridors, restoration and/or construction of high quality and fish friendly side channels (that are designed avoid stranding or other impacts to aquatic organisms), and removal of hard shoreline armoring (to reduce edge habitat impacts, constriction of the stream, preclusion of riparian buffer establishments, and other effects). . . . reach-based analysis for determining stability and indirect effects of a given feature, and adequately determine and avoid downstream and across-stream negative effects from the features.”
7/1/2012 Incident Reports of Swinomish Tribal Chairman Interaction with Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Officers “We explained that the fisherman had to follow his own tribal regulations, and it was our understanding that CLADOOSBY had to land his salmon and put them onto a fish ticket prior to selling them. As we were talking, I observed CLADOOSBY haul in his net and begin to motor away. I told Officer Gaston that I wished to contact the commercial fisherman before he departed the area. We informed the group that since they did not have a receipt or any paperwork for the salmon and that the area was closed to the recreational harvest of salmon we were seizing the six sockeye salmon. ... CLADOOSBY asked us if we wanted to buy some fish. Officer Gaston politely said no. Officer Gaston asked how fishing had been. CLADOOSBY asked Officer Gaston if he wanted to see, and pointed toward the fish tote. Officer Gaston told CLADOOSBY that he would like to see his fish. CLADOOSBY invited Officer Gaston aboard to look at the fish. CLADOOSBY told me that he thought he had about 35 sockeye in the tote.  ... As Officer Gaston boarded our patrol vessel I asked CLADOOSBY if he had put the fish down on a fish ticket before he sold them. CLADOOSBY stated that he hadn't, but that he would record the fish under the "Take Home" category on the fish ticket when he landed the rest of his fish later in the day. I informed CLADOOSBY that if this was a similar situation involving a non-tribal gillnetter selling fish to passing recreational vessels, and the fish were not landed on a fish ticket it would be a violation of state law.
7/2/2012 Weekly Hot Topics for North Sound Marine Detachment, for Week of 6/25/2012 “The fisherman stated that he had sold fish to numerous recreational boats who wished to purchase fish. The fisherman then offered to sell some to the officers. The officers asked if the salmon had been recorded on a fish ticket prior to being sold. The fisherman stated that he would later record the sold fish on his fish ticket as take home fish. The tribal member was informed that this was a violation of state and tribal law, and that the officers would be in communication with tribal fisheries officers. Officers later made contact with Swinomish Fisheries officers and verified that all tribally caught sockeye had to be landed to a licensed dealer before being sold. Charges will be referred to Swinomish Tribal Fisheries enforcement for prosecution. lt appears that the violator is the Swinomish Tribal Chairman!
7/13/2012 Letter to Corps from Farms, Fish and Floods Initiative ("3FI") 

Mission:  To create and advance mutually beneficial strategies that support the long-term viability of agriculture and salmon while reducing the risks of destructive floods.

Goal 1: Restore estuary habitats and functions in the tidal Skagit Delta needed to meet the Skagit Chinook Recovery Plan goal (approximately 2,380 acres is the remainder needed).

Goal 2: Reduce the risk of destructive flooding by implementing flood risk reduction alternatives that maximize river and estuary habitats and functions whenever possible and minimize the conversion of farmland.

Goal 3: Protect and improve agricultural land base and infrastructure (20,000 acres protected through agricultural easements and drainage structures are maintained and enhanced). 
12/14/2012 Skagit County Commissioners' Letter to Swinomish Tribal Community & the City of Anacortes Mayor Maxwell's December 6 letter also claims that Skagit County breached the 2007 County-Anacortes Settlement Agreement, a document signed in the wake of six different unsuccessful legal actions by Anacortes against the County. The 2007 agreement required Anacortes and the County to mutually "work in good faith" on water planning, an obligation Anacortes promptly breached in 2008 by suing to eliminate the entire Skagit water allocation for farmers and rural landowners. Skagit County has no further duties under the 2007 Settlement Agreement either.
“...We are all here for the long term. Rather than remaining mired in the battles of past generations, we prefer to work ín cooperation with Swinomish and other Skagit tribes to prepare our community for the environmental challenges of the future, including the threats that climate change poses.”
3/2013 National Wildlife Federation: Changing Course: Why Protecting Floodplains is Good for People and Wildlife "“The value of floodplains is well documented. Floodplains reduce flood damage; Floodplains improve water quality: Floodplains provide essential habitat. . . . The cumulative effects of filling in floodplains can be surprising. Losing just one percent of a basins floodplains and wetlands can increase peak flows by almost 8 percent. Filling in floodplains displaces water storage capacity, compounding flood risk and destroying habitat."

This is one of the best floodplain management documents ever prepared.  A must read for everyone.
3/27/2013 National Wildlife Federation Video: Help NWF Protect Floodplains for People and Wildlife An almost 5 minute video about development in Western Washington State floodplains.  Burlington's floodplain development is a major subject of the movie.
3/29/2013 US Federal Court Ruling on WSDOT Culverts “At the time of trial in 2009, WDFW had identified 807 WSDOT barrier culverts which blocked more than 200 meters of salmon habitat upstream of the culvert.  ... Reductions in salmon harvests by tribal and non-tribal fishers, leaving more adult fish to spawn, will not result in substantial increases in salmon production unless accompanied by gains in habitat, particularly spawning ground. A fish passage barrier culvert is a culvert that impedes the passage of any life stage of any species of anadromous fish at any flow level which would allow the passage of fish, but for the culvert. ... Despite past State action, a great many barrier culverts still exist, large stretches of potential salmon habitat remain empty of fish, and harvests are still diminished. Remedies at law are inadequate as monetary damages will not adequately compensate the Tribes and their individual members for these harms. Salmon harvests are important to Tribal members not only economically but in their traditions, culture, and religion; interests for which there is no adequate monetary relief.”