Empathy and Patience Open Access for Salmon
Skagit County: Perry Welch probably never expected to be a social
services provider as a Project Manager for the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement
Group (SFEG). Yet that’s just what he did do last summer to
make it possible to open fish access to good upstream habitat on
Shoeshel Creek in Sedro Wooley.
An old chimney stove pipe, pretending to be a culvert, lay in the
creek beneath a driveway shared by two homes. Not only was this so-called
culvert undersized, but there was also a two-foot drop from it to
the creek, making salmon passage all but impossible. To replace the
stove pipe meant shutting off water and cutting off access to the
two houses for the two weeks it would take to do the work.
The owner of the driveway quickly saw the value of correcting this
situation. Her neighbor, however, balked and for good reason. Her
house is a 24-hour home care facility for six to eight elderly people.
She feared that displacing her clients for even as short a time as
two weeks would be confusing and distressing for them.
“She was worried that she would lose some of her clients,” Welch
said. “So we delayed the project until we could figure out
what to do.”
In fact, the project waited a year while Welch and his staff searched
for an alternate route to get to the house so they could avoid having
to dislocate anyone. There just wasn’t one. Meanwhile, a SFEG
volunteer paid regular visits to the elderly care home and slowly
gained the owner’s trust. She came to appreciate the value
of the project and to recognize its inevitability.
In the hopes of finding one place for all the elderly residents
to stay, Welch explored local Bed and Breakfast’s and hotels,
but none were really suitable. Ultimately, the Department of Social
and Health Services (DSHS) stepped in and found temporary homes for
SFEG used some of their project funds to defray the cost of the
move, expenses and loss of caretaker fees.
So that took care of the people, but there were chickens too that
needed daily feeding and watering. To accommodate this need, Welch
and his crew built a walking trail and rigged up a 40-gallon water
tank. They even helped haul water to the tank.
Was it worth it? Well, today there is a twelve-foot diameter wide
culvert assembled from about 140 aluminum structural plates, each
weighing 135 pounds. This type of culvert was recommended because
of its longevity and it will open passage to a half-mile of habitat
leading to Bottomless Lake. Unfortunately, before salmon could take
advantage of this new opening, the two storm events in the fall of
2003 wiped out many of the spawning coho in the creek.
“Before the storms, coho were seen just a hundred feet below
the culvert,” Welch says. “But the landowners are committed
now and have been trained to conduct spawner surveys to count salmon
making their way through the culvert this year.”
As for the elderly residents, they did just fine for those two weeks
and are happy to be back to their former routine.
Contact: Perry Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org