Yakima River Water Stargrass
Benton Conservation District (BCD) is leading the community effort to deal with water stargrass. With funding and support from the Yakima Basin Fish and Wildlife Recovery Board and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, BCD is educating and organizing landowners and volunteers. Water stargrass is a perennial plant that forms a dense two-inch thick mat of roots. When salmon return to the lower Yakima to spawn, they find their traditional nesting grounds covered by stargrass, and they are forced to migrate further. Water stargrass has steadily increased over the last decade, causing salmon spawning in the lower river to decrease. During the day, water stargrass produces oxygen. After the sun goes down, water stargrass consumes more oxygen than it produces, and sometimes causes dangerous drops in the amount of oxygen available to fish and other aquatic life. Water stargrass has become so thick that anglers, boaters, hunters, swimmers and other recreationists can't enjoy the river as they once did. In cooperation with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, BCD located some traditional fall chinook salmon spawning grounds with safe and secure access. BCD recruited and organized volunteer work parties with the aid of regional media. Through the summer, BCD staff and volunteers cleared 1.5 acres of the riverbed, opening it up to salmon spawning again. Special thanks to the dedicated landowner and volunteers who shared their time this summer to make the Yakima River a better place for salmon and for people!
Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) Grants
BCD was recently awarded two grants through the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. We are working with a voluntary technical advisory group to perform an assessment of the lower Yakima River and investigate the aquatic habitat needs, riparian restoration, fish screening needs, and beneficial uses of the lower Yakima River basin. It is the first step toward identifying the high priority actions in the lower Yakima River. Once key issues are identified, BCD will work with landowners and the community to implement projects that will have an anticipated benefit to both salmon and people. If you own streamside property and are interested in ways you can help benefit our local salmon runs, or would like further information about our current research, please contact the BCD.