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User Guide
Produced by the Environmental Restoration and Fish Passage Section of the WDFW Habitat Program

Description

This website contains the mapped sites in the Skagit, Stillaguamish, Quillayute, Dickey, Sol Duc, Calawah, Bogachiel, Clearwater, and Hoh river basins that are considered “off-channel” habitats for native salmonids.  The Skagit sites are in Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA) 3 and 4, The Stillaguamish sites are in WRIA 5, the Clearwater sites are in WRIA 21 and the rest are in WRIA 20.  For the purpose of this inventory and database, the term “off-channel” is used to describe previously undocumented aquatic habitats with direct connection to the basin’s river network that are currently known or suspected to support anadromous salmon, char and trout. 

Generally, off-channel habitats are small tributaries, frequently spring or ground water-fed, that flow into larger channels.  Their diminutive size has caused them to be overlooked in prior inventories and they don’t often appear on topographic maps.  Although small, these waters can be very productive for salmonids especially coho salmon and trout.  These species are naturally attracted to these sites primarily for protected over-winter rearing.  Some sites have spawning gravel, which allows adults to spawn and results in fry being able to rear in very productive habitat with high survival.   Additionally, since they are frequently fed by spring or ground water, they usually stay wetted throughout the summer preventing summer stranding losses of parr common in more principal river channels that are surface-fed.

Data Displayed in the Map Document

All off-channel sites are identified with a colored dot based on GPS coordinates taken at the confluence of the tributary with the river or creek it empties into.  By zooming in to the sites, more map details will appear such as river names.  Clicking on a site will reveal a window with the site number.  You can activate the data sheets and maps by clicking on “More info”.  All pages can be seen by scrolling downward.  The pages contain data collected during the initial field survey as well as any additional visits made to the site.

Location and description of these habitats was undertaken primarily for two purposes.  The first was to identify these sites for their protection through various regulatory procedures and permits such as Forest Practice Rules, Hydraulic Project Approvals, Critical Areas Ordinances, zoning and other land use controls.  A supplemental value was to provide water typing information to Washington Department of Natural Resources that determines type and levels of acceptable activities in the vicinity.  Knowledge of their existence can also allow them to be included in conservation easements, habitat purchases and similar protection measures.  Second, the surveys of the watersheds for these sites were used to identify off-channel enhancement opportunities.  These ranged from access improvements to excavated ground water channels.

Survey Methodology

Current aerial photos and topographic maps were used to locate probable areas where off-channel type habitat could exist.  Referrals were also taken from other professional biologists working in the area.   Probable areas or sites were then searched on foot usually by walking up the mapped and identified streams.  Work in these basins began in 1987 and was suspended due to budget constraints in 2003.  The earliest work in the Hoh and Clearwater basins only included the floodplains of the mainstems.  Some of these sites are no longer in existence due to the meandering of the rivers, which reclaimed a few.  These reclaimed sites do not appear in the data or the maps.  As the inventory evolved, sites that appeared vulnerable to reclamation by the river were not considered for surveys.  Later work on the other river basins included tributary floodplain habitat.  In most cases, off-channel sites were followed and mapped to the 20% gradient criteria that was assumed to be the end of the anadromous zone (WDFW 2000).

When a site was found, it was given a unique identification code.  The first one or two alpha characters describe the principal named stream.  An alpha character follows which designates which bank of the stream the site is on (Right or Left looking downstream).  The next numeric is the reach number on that stream as assigned by principal topographic breaks.    The last numeric is the sequential number of that site found on that bank.  For example, S-L1-01 represents the first site on the left bank of the Sol Duc River.

As the inventory moved into tributaries, a different code was adopted since most streams were not named.  We used the first letter of the named mainstem and followed that with the Water Resource Inventory Area number (WRIA) followed by R or L for right or left bank and ending with the sequential number in that group of sites.  For example, B-0241L-01 represents the first site on the left bank of tributary number 20.0241, which is tributary to the Bogachiel River.

Specific habitat and description information was collected at each site including physical site measurements, assessment of habitat quality, and location using a traditional legal definition (section, township and range) and Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates.  The GPS point was the confluence of the off-channel flow with the known or previously identified stream.  Sufficient information was also taken to later draw a detailed map of the site.  The finalized data sheets, hand drawn maps and USGS topographic maps are all attached to the site identification code as seen in the Arcview map document file.

Data Limitations

Information was collected over a 16 year time period.  Due to funding cutbacks, the inventory was not completed on all tributaries so there are gaps in the data.  The Elk Creek drainage on the Calawah river was intensively surveyed and mapped, but is not included.  The PDF files for Elk Creek are available on request, but will not show on the maps.  Many sites were rechecked at various times of the year to determine fish use, water flow and other anecdotal information.  All site descriptions and maps reflect conditions at a point in time and accuracy now or later cannot be confirmed.  Refer to the dates on the field forms to ascertain application to your use.  A new site visit may be necessary where critical habitat conditions occur or land use decisions are to be made.  Changes in field staff through the survey period caused minor changes in protocol so data may be slightly inconsistent across all sites in the database.  Dynamic changes in riverine habitat in some areas may also have caused changes in habitat conditions at some sites previously mapped.  For these reasons, WDFW cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the data, changed conditions from those described or products produced from its use.  Every effort was made to find all remnant bits of habitat previously undocumented but some were likely overlooked so this information represents the minimum area available.  There are no warranties accompanying any of the information or map products.  The user accepts this database “as is” with the understanding it was not produced for any purpose other than that stated above.

The legal description polygons were derived from Washington Department of Natural Resources data dated March 2005.  Current data may have improved positions for some sections and townships.