SWAT (Skokomish Watershed Action Team)
This project has been another great opportunity to celebrate the success of alliances, like the many experiences I had while helping with this year's Canoe Journey. I am inspired by the collective effort expended in the direction of restoring a watershed that's key to this region. The result of a century of industrial activity has blocked the Skokomish River from above and capped it at the base — the entry to the Hood Canal — filling the riverbed with gravel and sediment. The upper dams were originally built to bring power to the City of Tacoma, and the lower dikes were created to attract ducks for hunting, among other things. It is heartening to know that it is possible for groups with dramatically different perspectives on land and resources historically, to come together in order to save it, and preserve it for coming generations.
The river has become clogged with gravel and sediment since, and currently the bed of the river is higher than the roadway which borders it. It is so congested the salmon who have tried to swim home have been forced in other directions, sadly onto the roadways in the valley.
"The Skokomish River watershed is a vital part of the Hood Canal marine ecosystem and the nationally significant Puget Sound. However, degraded watershed conditions pose a threat to multiple species of fish and wildlife. Furthermore, substantial and recurrent floods and rising ground-water levels menace local communities. Restoration of a well-functioning watershed is necessary for species recovery and community revitalization.
In 2007, the SWAT finalized a “road map” that enveloped these collaborative efforts in the Skokomish: Restoring the Skokomish Watershed, A Three-Year Action Plan. The SWAT action plan laid out an ambitious set of 42 restoration projects costing an estimated total of $48.6 million. Remarkably, as of 2016, virtually all of these projects – and more – have been completed or are nearing completion.