Snohomish County Public Utility District No. 1

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Sultan River Side Channel Enhancements

Sultan River Fisheries Project:

Snohomish County PUD has performed enhancements to two parks along the Sultan River as a requirement to relicense the Jackson Hydroelectric Project located in the Sultan River watershed. The work involved a suite of environmental enhancement measures, including creation of nearly two miles of side channel habitat along the lower Sultan River. This work will benefit salmon that use the Sultan River.

Here is detailed information on what was done and why:

  • Osprey Park: improvement of rearing habitat for juvenile salmon. Side channels (channels that are connected to the main channel but are much smaller) provide optimal conditions for young fish. Some of these channels had changed over time as a result of the operation of the hydroelectric project. The value of these habitats has been increased significantly by improving the flow into and out of these channels. This was accomplished by creating engineered log jams in the main channel to re-direct flow and by excavating the channel in certain areas. The goal was to provide diverse high-quality habitat throughout the year.
  • Reese Park: improvement of rearing habitat for juvenile salmon. As with Osprey Park, restoration of a side channel inlet was conducted to improve the connection with the main channel of the river. The relic inlet was not functioning in its current form and required excavation to restore it to good health and provide aquatic habitat. A strategically placed series of engineered log jams permanently re-directed a portion of the river’s flow into the newly excavated side channel.

Benefits From Enhancements

Fish Populations

Enhancement of side channel and placement of large woody debris:

  • provides habitat diversity in the mainstream of the Sultan River and in key side channels,
  • enhances habitat for juvenile salmon,
  • helps retain and distribute gravels moving downstream to provide additional spawning areas,
  • promotes further exchange of water and nutrients between surface and subsurface flows,
  • and helps distribute surface flows through key side channel inlets.


Weeds invade riparian areas and out-compete native vegetation. Their presence can prevent establishment of native trees, leading to the formation of permanent thickets with little other vegetation present. These dense, impenetrable thickets can block access of larger wildlife to water and other resources (not to mention causing problems for people trying to enjoy parks and natural areas). Disturbed areas were replanted with native/locally adapted vegetation.


Bridges were added to new side channels, and disturbed trails were re-surfaced. Environmental enhancements like these improve the aesthetics and enjoyment of the parks.

These measures to enhance the aquatic resources of the Sultan River were developed in cooperation with federal and state resource agencies, local municipalities, recreational groups and the Tulalip Tribes. In addition, this work would not be possible without the cooperation of the City of Sultan and local landowners.


Keith Binkley