Asotin Creek, a tributary to the Snake River at river mile 145 drains approximately 325 square miles of Asotin and Garfield Counties. Headwaters originate in the Blue Mountains (6,200 ft) and flow east into the Snake River (800 ft) at Asotin, Washington. Located in WRIA # 35, the highest priority WRIA in southeastern Washington according to WDFWís ďAt-Risk Stock Significance Map,Ē Asotin Creek is part of the Governorís Snake River Salmon Recovery Region.
Asotin Creek remains an important Snake River tributary for anadromous salmonid production in Washington and has been given the distinction of being a reserve for wild steelhead under current WDFW management policy. Charley Creek, an upper tributary, historically had some of the highest densities of juvenile steelhead in southeastern Washington according to WDFW fisheries surveys.
ESA-listed stocks of summer steelhead, bull trout, and spring Chinook, along with resident rainbow trout utilize the watershed. Indigenous anadromous fish species most actively targeted for management are summer steelhead, bull trout, and spring Chinook salmon. The goals for these species are to restore sustainable, naturally producing populations to support tribal and non-tribal harvest and cultural and economical practices while protecting the biological integrity and genetic diversity of these species in the watershed. The broad general strategies used to achieve the habitat objectives include protecting and restoring prioritized habitat through the use of in-stream, riparian, and upland best management practices (BMPs).
The Asotin Creek Model Watershed Plan (Plan) was printed in 1995. It was the first BPA-funded Model Watershed Plan completed in Washington that deals specifically with watershed restoration and protection focused on fish habitat restoration. Anadromous salmonid production in Asotin Creek is affected by high summer stream temperatures, sediment deposition, turbidity, loss of riparian vegetation, and lack of suitable resting and rearing pool habitat as recognized by the Plan. Decreasing stream water temperatures and increasing complex resting and rearing pools are goals identified in the Plan. The Asotin Watershed Project Implementation was identified and proposed for funding by ACCD as a means to coordinate and facilitate actions to achieve these goals.
Successful completion of past BPA (Bonneville Power Administration), SRFB (Salmon Recover Funding Board) and WCC (Washington Conservation Commission) habitat projects and working relations with watershed residents and interested parties have resulted in project completion addressing numerous factors limiting salmonids.
On March 16, 1999 the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) listed seven additional salmon species as Threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, bringing the total statewide listings to sixteen. Spring Chinook were listed in 1992, steelhead in 1997 and bull trout in 1998, all of which occur in Asotin Creek. The new listings in March did not affect ACCD projects as much as other areas of the state. The ACCD has been working with the NMFS and USFWS to obtain permits for its BPA In-Stream Habitat Projects. Biological Assessments were submitted for and approved through this process and the ACCD has developed a good working relationship with the landowners, federal and state agencies, and tribes.
NMFS believes that any successful recovery strategy must demonstrate:
- Substantive protective and conservation elements.
- A high degree of certainty that it will be implemented.
- A comprehensive monitoring program.
- A recognition of the need for partnerships between federal, state, local and tribal governments.
The ACCD supports this approach, however local citizens and landowners need to be recognized as partners by all government agencies. Without cooperation and partnerships at the local level this process will not be successful.