Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group (CCFEG) sponsored the White River Wood Atonement project which was funded by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, Rock Island Tributary Committee, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in December, 2011. The USFWS identified this project opportunity based on research done in the White and Chiwawa Rivers. The lower White River, like most river basins in the West, experienced decades of intensive timber harvest. Large clear cuts on private land, including to the river’s edge, occurred as recently as the 1980’s.
Logging in the early years generally focused on harvesting trees along the river, as it provided the most efficient method for transporting logs to the mills. The large trees along the lower White were indeed a mosaic of sizes but included large cedars, white pine, Douglas-fir, and Engelmann spruce, sometimes up to 8 feet in diameter! These highly-prized trees were most easily transported to the mill by floating them downriver once they’d been cut and skidded to the channel. Large, occasionally channel-spanning logjams were likely common on the lower White River and had to be freed by dynamite to get the trees to the Lake or onward to Leavenworth. The loss of these riparian forests and instream logjams resulted in a significant decrease in local fish and wildlife habitat. As a result of these changes, the White River has down-cut vertically, reducing the frequency of flood flows on the floodplain and lowering the water table.
The goal of the project is to reconstruct the role that the downed old growth trees and logjams once provided. During the summer of 2014, CCFEG installed 130 untreated, vertically imbedded trees upstream of the Little Wenatchee Road bridge for approximately 1.5 miles. Project partners installed pilings into existing logjams and in areas where eroding banks would be helped by the accumulation of future wood. Utilizing a helicopter, log jam development was “jump started” by adding whole trees pinched in between the pilings. In order to minimize the construction footprint as much as possible, the site was accessed using only boats and working entirely from the water. Utilizing the river for access, just as the original loggers once did, any potential riparian impacts were eliminated and there were also minimal impacts to the stream environment and adjacent floodplain.
Check out the great photos of the project:
White River Project Photos
Thank you to Jason Lundgren/CCFEG for providing information about this project.