Pysht River Conservation Area restoration pushed to summer 2017

Restoration at the Pysht River Conservation Area will likely occur next summer (2017) given permit restrictions related to fish activity during certain times of year. The 74-acre Conservation Area owned by North Olympic Land Trust is one of four access points to the river and its surrounding floodplain targeted for restoration.

Pysht River. Photo by Lindsey Aspelund

By installing a variety of large wood structures, Mike McHenry, habitat biologist for Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, aims to restore instream and floodplain habitat conditions to facilitate salmon recovery, improve water quality and reduce risk of flooding on State Route 112.

“We started planning for this project about five years ago,” McHenry said. “It’s a joint effort between the Lower Elwa Klallam and Makah tribes.”

In the past, logging had occurred along much of the river’s banks triggering “channel incision,” (The process of down-cutting into a stream channel leading to a decrease in the channel bed elevation) and disconnect between the river and its floodplain, McHenry said.

Fortunately, logging practices have since changed to better protect the river and its natural processes, but McHenry and his crew are trying to “accelerate the recovery until the trees are large enough to do it,” he said.

Although the conservation area is the final restoration site under this project and therefore construction isn’t expected until next summer, visitors can expect project materials to be staged there this year. The materials and equipment should not impact public use of the conservation area, according to McHenry.

Upon completion, nearly 2 miles of the Pysht River will be restored. The river supports populations of Chinook, Coho and Chum salmon, as well as Steelhead and Cutthroat Trout. Of these populations, Chinook are considered “chronically depressed,” Chum are “declining” and Coho are “below potential,” according to the project grant application submitted to the Washington Department of Ecology.

Fred Sullivan and his grandchildren installed the Leonidas family sign in late July 2016. Photo by Lorrie Mittmann

Fred Sullivan and his grandchildren installed the Leonidas family sign in late July 2016. Photo by Lorrie Mittmann

Other happenings at the Pysht 

Land Trust staff and volunteers recently installed a sign as a respectful reminder behind the 5.5 acres of the Pysht River Conservation Area donated in 2015 by Tom Leonidas after the tragic death of his wife. Beneath a large, moss-covered maple in the quiet and peaceful forest, visitors will find the sign reading: “This property was conserved by the Leonidas family in the loving memory of Gloria.”

May the Pysht River Conservation Area and its surrounding forest forever thrive and remain a living memorial to Gloria Leonidas.