More help for Skagit salmon - Seattle City Light purchases 115 acres along Sauk River


Skagit Valley Herald

Kim Robinson / Skagit Valley Herald
Seattle City Light has purchased 115 acres in the Skagit River watershed as part of the utility's salmon protection plan.

The land, northeast of Darrington on Highway 530 in Snohomish County, includes about a mile of the Sauk River that provides vital fish habitat, said Ed Connor, fisheries biologist for the utility.

The Sauk River empties into the Skagit River near Rockport. The Sauk and Suiattle rivers provide some of the best salmon rearing grounds in the Skagit Basin.

The Sauk River meanders wildly, changing its course and cutting new channels frequently. That makes it ideal for fish, Connor said.

"It's a very active area, and that's good," he said. "Fish are geared for that type of dynamic, ever-changing river."

The $475,000 purchase brings Seattle City Light's holdings in the Skagit River Basin to 4,667 acres, including land around the Diablo, Gorge and Ross dams. Of that, 389 acres was purchased solely to provide habitat for chinook salmon and bull trout under the utility's "Early Action" program.

The river also is used by coho, chum, pink salmon and steelhead for rearing and spawning.

While most of the property is in the river's flood plain, the western 30 acres are much higher, offering excellent views of the river. Those views meant the property would likely have been developed, either into a campground or a private vacation home, Connor said.

There is an access road on the property that will be removed, probably by just letting vegetation grow over the road, Connor said.

While Seattle City Light is preserving the land, the Skagit Systems Cooperative - the consortium of tribes with fishing rights in the Skagit Basin - plans to do some restoration work, removing the riprap and armoring which was installed by an earlier owner to keep the river from eroding its banks and creating new channels. That sideways movement is exactly what the tribes and utility want to allow, Connor said.

Part of the land, dominated by western red cedars, had been logged, and more logging was possible until the utility bought the parcel.

"We're not going to log any of it," Connor said. "We'll get rid of minor hindrances, let it grow back to its natural state again."

"This property is a gem from an ecological perspective, with some of the best salmon and eagle habitat in one of the healthiest reaches of the Skagit River system," said Bob Carey, Skagit River area manager for the Nature Conservancy, in a press release.

James Geluso can be reached at 360-416-2146 or by e-mail at


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