FERNDALE - A project that replaced a small dam at Lake Terrell and restored a creek channel has allowed salmon to swim into Lake Terrell for the first time in 62 years.
The $150,000 effort on the north end of the lake was a partnership of Whatcom Conservation District and Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association. The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife also was involved.
Completed at the end of September, the project included replacing a 7-foot-tall concrete dam that was installed in 1950 to enlarge the lake west of Ferndale for recreational purposes.
The dam also blocked salmon and other anadromous fish - which migrate up rivers from the sea to spawn - from reaching Lake Terrell and its tributaries upstream, and prevented Terrell Creek from flowing all summer.
"There wasn't as much attention paid to fish passage at that time," said Steve Seymour, a watershed steward biologist with the Department of Fish & Wildlife, which manages the 1,500-acre Lake Terrell unit that includes the lake.
To fix those problems the project:
? Replaced the dam, which rose above the creek, with a new one topped by a V-shaped weir to release water being collected in the lake during wet winter months into Terrell Creek during the dry summer months. That also will allow juvenile salmon to spend their summer in the creek.
? Restored the stream channel on both sides of the dam. That included reconstructing more than 600 feet of Terrell Creek below the dam. Crews also brought in 3,000 tons of gravel to raise the stream bed, which had been dredged, to allow fish to swim over the dam and to provide gravel for spawning.
"That's a lot" of gravel, said Frank Corey, the resource coordinator for Whatcom Conservation District who served as project manager.
Large pieces of wood also were put into the creek to provide shelter and resting areas for fish as part of the effort to improve habitat.
The goal of the project is to provide access to anadromous and resident fish from Terrell Creek into the lake and tributaries upstream.
The hope is that it will help restore historic populations of coho salmon, chum salmon and cutthroat trout.
Coho have already been seen in the project area, including ones spawning in Butler Creek, which is above the lake and is the main tributary flowing into it, according to Rachel Vasak, executive director of Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association.
The project was the final piece in a long list of projects to remove fish barriers downstream of Lake Terrell.
"The lake was kind of viewed as the last barrier in the system," Seymour said. "Every little project is a piece of the puzzle. Terrell is a piece of the puzzle."
Two grants totaling $125,000 paid for the majority of the project. The grants came from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and BP Cherry Point Refinery.
Reach Kie Relyea at email@example.com or call 360-715-2234.
Additional information about the Lake Terrell dam and channel project is online at whatcomcd.org. Select "Terrell Dam Project" from the "Programs" menu on the home page.
More on Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association is at n-sea.org, and more on Lake Terrell is at wdfw.wa.gov. Type "Lake Terrell" into the search window on the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife's home page.
Reach KIE RELYEA at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2234.