Federal Columbia River Power System
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M2 Whitefish Island Habitat Improvement Project

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The M2 Whitefish Island Habitat Improvement Project (WFI) was completed November 2012, about three months after construction began. The project is part of the first phase of the larger Middle Methow (M2) Habitat Project, which is a coordinated effort between Reclamation, MSRF, Yakama Nation, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), USGS, Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Foundation and private and public landowners.

The overall M2 Project aims to implement reach-based improvements along an 8-mile stretch of the Methow River between the towns of Winthrop and Twisp in Okanogan County. The purpose of this reach-based rehabilitation is to improve habitat in and adjacent to the Methow River, improve tributary habitat conditions for the FCRPS BiOp, and support the short- and long-term recovery of ESA-listed fish species. The overall M2 Project area is split into Reach 1 in the north, led by MSRF and Reclamation, and Reach 2 in the south, led by the Yakama Nation.

The 1,500 foot long side channel on the Methow River at Whitefish Island is one of the few side channels in an eight mile reach known as the middle Methow River. Side channels like these can provide important habitat for juvenile fish, particularly if they offer what biologists call habitat complexity. Scientists believe that stream channel and floodplain complexity are the most important factors in improving the productivity of Chinook salmon in this segment of the Methow River. A complex stream habitat includes several environments – fallen trees, large boulders, gravel, and vegetation often complemented by ground water springs. Unlike a scoured streambed, channel complexity provides tree roots and shade, places for the juvenile fish to hide from predators as they grow, and places to rest on their way to the ocean.

In 2012, a partnership between the Methow Recovery Foundation and the Bureau of Reclamation resulted in the installation of log jams and wood assemblies at the head of Whitefish Island and along the banks of the side channels. These logjams will help catch additional wood and develop natural logjams. This creates high quality side channel rearing habitat, improve surface and groundwater connection to the floodplain, and help plants and vegetation develop along the stream banks. Wood placements throughout the channel are providing more habitat complexity and pool depth in both the side channel and the mainstem of the river. in 2013 constructed habitat in the Whitefish side-channel is being used by juvenile Chinook salmon at higher densities than can be seen in the mainstem Methow River.

Related Documents
06/2011 Whitefish Island Location Map PDF 178 kb
12/2011 Winthrop Reach Assessment of Geomorphic and Ecologic Indicators PDF 11.99 mb
08/2010 Middle Methow Reach Assessment HTML
03/2010 Geomorphology and Hydraulic Modeling for the Middle Methow River from Winthrop to Twisp PDF 15.05 mb
08/2008 Big Valley Reach Assessment PDF 14.54 mb
02/2008 Methow Subasin Geomorphic Assessment, Okanogan County, Washington HTML

Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation
Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board
Bonneville Power Administration
Bureau of Reclamation
Salmon Recovery Funding Board
HCP Tributary Committees
United States Geological Survey

Related Links
This project was funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, and the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Federal Caucus (www.salmonrecovery.gov)
Reclamation's Tributary Habitat Program
NOAA Fisheries 2008/2010 FCRPS Biological Opinions

Steve Kolk
Wenatchee Subbasin Liaison
(509) 667-8494

Bureau of Reclamation
Pacific Northwest Region
301 Yakima St., Room 319
Wenatchee, WA 98801

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Last Updated: 6/10/19