The site designated as the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation area is comprised of several restoration properties clustered around the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Reservation.  Projects within the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation Area have included property acquisition, rip-rap removal, stream channel realignment, and native vegetation planting. The various restoration projects are discussed in detail here.

 

Lyle Creek flows through the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation Area just north of the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribal Community.
Lyle Creek flows through the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation Area just north of the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribal Community.

Between 2007 through 2010, the SRSC acquired land for conservation purposes with funding from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe. The 232 acres have been designated the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation Area, and are being actively managed for fish and wildlife species by the SRSC and the Sauk-Suiattle Natural Resources Department.

Lyle Creek flows under Highway 530 then through the Conservation Area just north of the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribal community, and then joins the Sauk River just upstream from its confluence with the Suiattle River. Much of the floodplain area adjacent to Lyle Creek was formerly a managed as a pasture. In maintaining the pasture, Lyle Creek was ditched and simplified, and periodically dredged to deal with sediment deposition and the resultant flooding issues. Now that the creek property is under SSIT ownership, the house and barn have been demolished and the property is maintained with a goal of conservation. Dredging is no longer a practice appropriate for the creek. As the creek has been aggrading, the creek goes subsurface seasonally to the detriment of fish habitat, and the likelihood of Lyle Creek jumping from its current channel to an adjacent low-lying flowpath has become increasingly likely.

In 2001, prior to the conservation acquisition, a CREP buffer was installed on the property. In 2011 and 2012 much of the pasture was planted in native trees, shrubs, and traditional cultural plants. The purpose of this proposed project is to provide improved habitat conditions for salmonids including steelhead, chum, and coho. This will be accomplished by regrading the banks and floodplain of Lyle Creek, preparing a new channel location along an aggrading reach of Lyle Creek, and installing large woody debris elements, enhancing the stream substrate, and restoring riparian vegetation throughout the reach.

Project Status/Timeline
SRSC is currently securing funding to implement this project.

Primary Project Contact
Nora Kammer – Restoration Ecologist

Funding Sources

Project Partners
Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe

The Sauk River along the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation Area.
The Sauk River along the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation Area.

The Sauk River is the largest tributary of the Skagit River and is used by all five salmon species, cutthroat trout, steelhead and native char. Over the last two decades, the Sauk River has been actively migrating laterally toward the west in the vicinity of Bryson Road, threatening to erode property, homes, and the county road. Flood events in the past have resulted in rip-rap armoring being placed along the river bank at the end of Bryson Road. These projects have failed and been rebuilt repeatedly, causing negative impacts to salmon habitat. Rip-rap along the river bank edge has a negative impact to salmon habitat because it simplifies bank edge complexity, increases flow velocities, and impacts the riparian zone, thereby reducing shade, large woody debris input to the river, and cover. Rip-rap also limits connectivity of the river with the floodplain and side channels, and reduces the formation of off-channel habitat that occurs naturally through the process of channel migration.

In order to end this cycle of repeated rip-rap placement and to protect salmon habitat, the Skagit River System Cooperative (SRSC) secured funding through the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for acquisition and restoration of five Bryson Road parcels totaling 52.3 acres along the Sauk River. The parcels were acquired in 2008-2009 and placed into ownership of the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe. A deed of right to the State of Washington was placed on them to ensure permanent conservation status. In addition, the 20.1 acre Four Cedars B parcel already owned by the tribe was also placed into conservation status with a deed of right. Five acres of the property were used to provide matching contribution for the grant. All six parcels, which total 72.4 acres, have become what is known as the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation Area. From 2008-2009, several restoration actions took place, including removal of human structures (houses, outbuildings, septic systems, utilities, and trash), removal of 450 feet of rip-rap and road fill that was blocking a historic side channel, removal of 2 fish barrier culverts, and planting over 20 acres with native vegetation.

Channel migration along the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation Area, 1949-2009.
Channel migration along the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation Area, 1949-2009.
Restoration actions at the Bryson Property.
Restoration actions at the project site.

Project Status/Timeline
The Bryson Road Acquisitions and Restoration were completed by SRSC in 2008-2009. Monitoring and stewardship of the site are ongoing.

Primary Project Contact
Devin Smith – Senior Restoration Ecologist

Funding Sources
Skagit River System Cooperative
SRFB – Salmon Recovery Funding Board

Project Partners
Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe
Skagit County
USDA – Forest Service (USFS)

The Dashiell Property, located on the north side of the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe reservation, was acquired in 2010 through a Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board grant (through partners Skagit Land Trust, Seattle City Light, and the Nature Conservancy) and placed into ownership of the tribe, with a deed of right that ensures permanent conservation status. The property covers about 178 acres, and includes many active side channels, backwater habitats, and wetlands that are connected to the Sauk River and that provided important rearing habitat to yearling Chinook salmon and steelhead. The mainstem river adjacent to the property is composed of multiple islanded channels that provide some of the best spawning areas from Chinook salmon and steelhead in the Sauk River below Darrington.

Within the floodplain and upland portion of the property, riparian conditions are mostly functioning, although the 18 acre pasture and residential area contain no mature riparian vegetation. All buildings, structures, and utilities, and trash will be removed from the property. Several years previously, a 120-150 foot wide CREP buffer was planted along Lyle Creek, a stream on the property containing coho salmon and cutthroat trout. SRSC will continue this work and undertake an extensive riparian revegetation effort to convert the majority of the remaining pasture to either native riparian species or elk winter forage species. All planting, maintenance and monitoring will be the responsibility of SRSC.

Primary Project Contact
Devin Smith

Funding Sources
Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board

Project Partners
Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe
Skagit Land Trust
The Nature Conservancy
Seattle City Light

Map showing property acquired as part of the Dashiell Acquisition project.
Map showing property acquired as part of the Dashiell Acquisition project.
This project is included within the description of SRSC Riparian Planting page, located here.