Washington Water Trust

Working to restore our state's rivers and streams.

Cowiche Creek

AT A GLANCE
WHERESnow Mountain Ranch comprises 1,800 acres within the Cowiche Creek of the Yakima River Basin. It connects important shrub/steppe habitat on the outskirts of the city of Yakima with the Cascade Mountains.
WHATWWT has worked collaboratively with the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy to protect 1.46 cfs and over 200 af of water for anadromous benefit, with partners providing important support for both instream and out-of-stream restoration efforts.
WHOWWT in partnership with Cowiche Canyon Conservancy, the North Yakima Conservation District, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Trust for Public Land, Bonneville Power Administration, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
WHYTo promote regional and diverse conservation objectives including land conservation, riparian restoration, and salmon recovery through public and non-profit parternships.
WHENWater conservation began in 2005 and is scheduled to be permanently instream in 2010, after which permanent benefits will be in place for land, water, fish, and wildlife.
In the foothills northeast of Yakima Washington, an effective partnership between Washington Water Trust and the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy emerged in 2005 to the benefit of salmon habitat in South Fork Cowiche Creek.   Thanks to funding and programmatic support from the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the Bonneville Power Administration, and the Trust for Public Land, Snow Mountain Ranch was purchased in 2005. Snow Mountain Ranch sits along a spur of the eastern flank of the Cascade Range, with the South Fork of Cowiche Creek winding gracefully through its center, amidst excellent elk and bird habitat, scenic hiking trails and critical habitat for endangered salmon.  Following the purchase, WWT partnered with the Conservancy to protect over 1.0 cfs of the property’s water rights to support passage and habitat for resident steelhead, spring Chinook, and coho salmon.

The Snow Mountain Ranch Project is an excellent example of coordination among organizations and agencies that serves to synchronize restoration of instream and out-of-stream habitat.   The team of committed resource and project specialists from CCC, WWT, the North Yakima Conservation District, the Trust for Public Land, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife worked seamlessly to protect the property, allowing for enhanced ecological performance.  Fish barriers have been removed, large riparian areas are being replanted and restored, and flow is returning to this system.  Additional flow enhancement projects are underway, including WWT’s partnership once again with the WDFW to protect additional water, just upstream on state wildlife land, for instream flow, balanced with riparian enhancement. Once listed by the Department of Ecology as a “highest priority” stream for fish recovery, the South Fork of the Cowiche is quickly turning into a success story for how regional conservation partnerships with water trusts can provide many happy returns for the fish and water resources we’re all working to protect.

Two thousand ten will be a landmark year for this project, as it will conclude this comprehensive five-year effort to restore the riparian zone of the Snow Mountain Ranch.  Riparian plantings will be completed and the former irrigation water, used temporarily for riparian plantings, will remain instream permanently to help move endangered salmon populations one step closer to recovery in this critical basin.