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Published: Friday, February 10, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Work to restore salmon habitat on Stillaguamish River near Darrington nearly complete

Years after tracks cut it off, a channel of the Stilly is almost reconnected

  • A metal archway created by artist Joe Powers titled "Resilience" has been installed at north of Arlington the intersection of the Centennial Trail and...

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    A metal archway created by artist Joe Powers titled "Resilience" has been installed at north of Arlington the intersection of the Centennial Trail and the Whitehorse Trail.

DARRINGTON -- A side channel along the North Fork Stillaguamish River once provided salmon habitat, until railroad tracks cut it off from the river's main channel in the 1930s.
Now, work by the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians to restore the waterway is nearly complete.
The Blue Slough project stretches almost two-thirds of a mile. At either end, corrugated metal culverts allow water to pass under Snohomish County's Whitehorse Trail, which follows the old train tracks between Arlington and Darrington.
"The railroad came through and chopped it off," said Pat Stevenson, the tribe's environmental manager. "One of the goals in our Chinook Recovery Plan is to reconnect old remnant side-channel habitat."
The County Council on Wednesday is scheduled to consider a cooperative agreement with the tribe for maintaining the culverts. The tribe would perform annual inspections and upkeep as needed, providing regular reports to the county parks department.
The Blue Slough project is nearly eight miles west of Darrington. It includes a gravel channel between two mill ponds, Stevenson said. It's not designed as a chinook spawning area, though it may serve that purpose for coho and chum salmon.
Since 2007, the tribe has cobbled together about a half million dollars in state and federal grants for the work, he said. A private landowner also contributed money, labor and equipment. Adding to the project's expense was a requirement to engineer the culverts to railroad standards, in the unlikely event that trains ever return to the route above.
The tribe also engineered log jams to provide fish habitat on the North Fork Stilly near the side channel.
Most of the county's Whitehorse Trail is closed to the public, aside from a six-mile section from Darrington Town Hall to Swede Heaven Road.
Opening the trail could be years away and will require installing decking and railings on 15 bridges, county parks director Tom Teigen said. Volunteers who were active in ushering the Centennial Trail toward completion are planning to projects to assist that work.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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