Wiseman Creek is a tributary to the Skagit River, It flows from the slopes on the northern side of the Skagit River Valley across the floodplain to its confluence with the river. Coho (spawning, rearing), steelhead trout (spawning, rearing), and cutthroat trout (spawning, rearing) are known to historically used Wiseman Creek. The creek was traditionally proclaimed as an outstanding steelhead fishing stream. However, that is not the case today. An analysis of fish use in Wiseman comparing 2000 to 1970 found that steelhead all but disappeared from the system in the 2000 study, replaced by cutthroat use (Pentec 2001). Habitat quality, quantity, and access have all been diminished over the past decades.
The presence of numerous anthropogenic impacts has diverted Wiseman Creek into several dispersed flow pathways that, together, virtually eliminate fish passage into the system. Beginning in the late 1800’s, two railroad grades, now Hwy 20 and the Cascade Trail, cut across the alluvial fan of the creek.
Sedimentation and mass wasting in the upper watershed due to historic logging activities, combined with significant development within the floodplain, contribute to localized flooding and sedimentation. Channel dredging and gravel mining have further degraded the impaired habitat. Sedimentation and actions by affected landowners have diverted Wiseman Creek into dispersed flow with several potential outlets, some of which have no fish passage possible. Flowpaths include entering the Minkler Lake wetland complex during lower flows, and at higher flows entering Black Slough via the Utopia Road bridge. Efforts to farm the wet bottomlands have resulted in the construction of a ditch network that today captures a portion of Wiseman Creek’s flow, which then enters the Skagit River via a fish-blocking flap gate. The floodplain is heavily used for cattle pasture, which contributes to water quality issues and impacts riparian vegetation.
SRSC is conducting a feasibility study that will identify restoration alternatives for Wiseman Creek that focus on restoring alluvial fan function, instream continuity and complexity, and ensuring reliable fish passage into the system within the confines of ongoing land use and ownership patterns. The analysis and selection of a preferred alternative will consider maintenance requirements and longevity of the action, with a goal of a long-term self-sustaining restoration action. The analysis will lay the groundwork for future restoration efforts in the watershed.
The feasibility study is underway and will be completed in 2016.
Primary Project Contact
Steve Hinton – Director of Restoration
Puget Sound Energy Aquatic Riparian Habitat Protection, Restoration, and Enhancement Plan
Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group
Wildcat Steelhead Club
Skagit Land Trust