Oak Creek Restoration

In 2017 Mid-Columbia Fisheries completed a project to improve fish habitat in the Oak Creek watershed.  The creek enters the Tieton River, less than two miles above the confluence of the Tieton and Naches Rivers in Yakima County.  Oak Creek provides valuable spawning and rearing habitat for federally-threatened Mid-Columbia steelhead in the Tieton River system.

The project goals were to improve forest health and stream function.  In stream, the project improved pool frequency and quality, increased gravel retention, and increased floodplain function though the addition of 452 pieces of large wood (logs) along 4.5 miles of Oak Creek and South Fork Oak Creek.

Wood for the project came from the thinning of 21.5 acres of overly dense forest.  Thinning of intermediate and suppressed trees resulted in spacing in the remaining forest stand that is consistent with that of the historic fire regime in the area.  The goal of this is to increase the resiliency of the forest stand to disturbances such as wildlife and insect infestation.

As part of the project, the contractor decompacted and/or re-contoured 2,680 linear feet of forest roads 1400 and 1401 to improve hydrologic function.  Nearly 1,350 native trees and shrubs were planted along with native grass seed.  Continued weed control in the project area is planned for the coming years.

The project was implemented by Mid-Columbia Fisheries’ restoration crew, with assistance from Washington Conservation Corps, Yakama Nation Fisheries, Thayer Excavating LLC,and a small consulting firm called Water Pushing Dirt.  Funding was provided by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the National Forest Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. Pre-project data was collected by Mid-Columbia Fisheries’ staff with help from college interns from Central Washington University.  Special recognition is owed to the participating landowners:  USDA Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  The project was identified through the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative, and implements goals of the collaborative across a checkerboard landscape within the Oak Creek Wildlife Area.