Watershed project will restore fish population in Asotin Creek

ASOTIN, WA - The Snake and Clearwater rivers serve not only as a fisherman's destination for many throughout the country but also as a place to build memories, like teaching your child to cast out and reel in a big fish.

But what if the "big one" isn't around? That's what Watershed Management project director Dr. Stephen Bennett and others are making sure doesn't happen as they conduct habitat restoration along Asotin Creek for steelhead.

"Everybody likes to fish and right now Asotin Creek is closed to steelhead fishing because their worried about the numbers," said Bennett.

"I love to fish," said Planning Director Brad Johnson. "I have boys that are eight and 14 and I want to be able to see them catch a fish some day on Asotin Creek."

The ten year watershed project is within its fourth year and will cover a ten mile stretch on Asotin Creek. Wood is now being placed into the creek to create pools which help to improve spawning habitats. After the wood is added to the stream, intense monitoring will then provide data which can be used by other areas struggling with the same problems.

"Wood creates habitat, it creates cover, and it's just a natural part of the stream systems," said Bennett. "For 150 years we've been taking wood out."

The steelhead population on the Snake and Clearwater rivers have struggled due to many factors, some of which are uncontrollable, but most likely always controversial. However, it is not the controversy of the past that brings biologists, conservationists and land owners alike together, but perhaps the excitement of what the future brings.

"It's not looking at any one user group as the culprit to why its not here," said Johnson. "It's just from this point forward how can we improve habitat."

"We were just throwing grass hoppers in the stream, little tiny pools, and the fish were going crazy jumping up and getting them," said local land owner Kenny Thornton. "It's pretty encouraging to see the work their doing."

After restoration on the South Fork of Asotin Creek is finished, they will begin work on the North Fork.

Everyone from the community is encouraged to head out to the creek and see the changes they've already made.