Aquatic Species Restoration Plan

2023 Progress

The Aquatic Species Restoration Plan (ASRP) 2023 progress update shows how the ASRP program is growing, maturing, and how science continues to inform our work. This year’s update expands on the framework that guides aquatic habitat restoration and protection in the Chehalis Basin and highlights implementation accomplishments for this young program. 

The Aquatic Species Restoration Plan (ASRP) is a science-informed plan funded through the Department of Ecology’s Office of Chehalis Basin and approved by the Chehalis Basin Board. The ASRP is designed to improve and restore aquatic habitat in the Chehalis Basin while helping protect communities from the predicted increase in flooding disasters.

The ASRP approach is structured around five key elements:

  • Habitat and Process Protection
  • Habitat and Process Restoration
  • Community Planning
  • Community Involvement
  • Institutional Capacity

Project Implementation: Progress and Accomplishments

Since 2015, the state has invested approximately $60.5 million dollars on ASRP project development, design, and implementation to benefit aquatic species across the Basin.

See how progress has been made in each county in the map below.

Map showing the amount of work done in each of the four major counties that encompass the Chehalis Basin: Grays Harbor County, Mason County, Thurston County, and Lewis County.
Map showing the work done in each of the four major counties that encompass the Chehalis Basin.
Acres of Floodplain Restored
Acres of Habitat Restored
Landowners Contacted
River Miles Made More Accessible for Fish
River Miles Restored

Since 2021, approximately $17.8 million dollars was distributed for on-the-ground restoration and protection projects.   

The ASRP’s prioritization and sequencing approach has guided over 85% of the project funding to geographic areas that are the near-term priorities (years one through ten). The plan has helped:

  • Restore over nine miles of river and stream habitat
  • Correct the highest priority barriers to fish passage
  • Control invasive species and install riparian plantings 
  • Support five amphibian-focused projects
  • Propel the ASRP program toward our goal to restore 400 acres of floodplain habitat

The ASRP’s full 30-year plan will require rapidly increasing investments, matched with building capacity of our project sponsors and contractors in the Basin through at least 2030.

The ASRP will continue to implement projects while the Chehalis Basin Board evaluates the components of a long-term Chehalis Basin Strategy through 2025.

In 2023, the ASRP Steering Committee recommended funding for several new projects that achieve:

  • Invasive species monitoring and management
  • Beaver habitat restoration
  • Floodplain plantings and restoration design across 24 acres
  • Large scale holistic restoration spanning two high-priority stream miles 

ASRP Goals

These goals were developed to guide the ASRP strategies, actions, and restoration scenarios:

  • Protect and restore natural habitat-forming processes within the Chehalis Basin watershed context.
  • Increase the quality and quantity of habitats for aquatic species in priority areas.
  • Protect and restore aquatic species viability considering viable species population parameters.
  • Increase resiliency to climate change by protecting and improving natural water quantity, water timing, and water quality characteristics.
  • Build recognition of and support for ASRP actions and the ways the ASRP supports resilient human communities.
Pie charts showing the portion of the Chehalis Basin Strategy budget devoted to aquatic species habitat uplift (about 44%), a robust majority of which is invested in ASRP restoration and protection projects.  Out of the total Chehalis Basin Strategy budget, 44% is directed toward aquatic species habitat restoration, 44% toward flood damage reduction, 6% toward integrated programs, and 6% toward Office of the Chehalis Basin operating costs.
Pie charts showing allocation of the ASRP budget, with a majority (68%) going toward projects. Out of the total ASRP budget, 68% is directed toward projects, 16% toward science and monitoring, and 16% toward program administration.

Aquatic Species Restoration Plan Projects Approved Since 2015

Map showing ASRP projects across the Chehalis Basin. Projects implemented prior to 2023 are shown as circles on the map. Seven projects were initiated in 2023 shown with symbols that represent the project types. 2023 projects included the following: three restoration projects on the mainstem Chehalis River, Mill Creek, and Newaukum Rivers; one barrier removal project in Dry Bed Creek in the Satsop Sub-basin; and one project development awards given for early project strategy work for the Scatter Creek and South fork Chehalis River water rights project. The map shows the three regional implementation team focal areas for the Lower, Middle and Upper Chehalis Basin. The map also highlights the smaller near-term priority implementation areas for focus in years 1 through 10 within the overall basin.

ASRP Project Feature: Wildcat Creek Culvert Removal Project

In 2023, three culverts were replaced with three concrete bridges on Middle Fork Wildcat Creek in Grays Harbor County to reduce flooding and provide unimpeded access to four stream miles for migrating Coho salmon, steelhead, and other trout. The project was sponsored by the Chehalis Basin Fisheries Task Force (CBFTF) and funded through the ASRP.

The implementation of a culvert replacement strategy tailored to the unique needs of both the public and salmonids of Middle Fork Wildcat Creek is an exemplary representation of how entities can work together to achieve a common goal.
— Megan Tuttle, Habitat Biologist with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Before photo showing the change at the Wildcat Creek County Line Road Fish Barrier Correction project. The first photos shows undersized culverts beneath the road. The second photos shows a channel-spanning bridge with the traveling metal Happy Fish sculpture.
Before the ASRP-funded Middle Fork Wildcat Creek County Line Road Fish Barrier Correction project.

Photo credit: CBFTF and Kirsten Harma

After photo showing the change at the Wildcat Creek County Line Road Fish Barrier Correction project. The first photos shows undersized culverts beneath the road. The second photos shows a channel-spanning bridge with the traveling metal Happy Fish sculpture.
Happy Fish, ambassador of World Fish Migration Day, traveled to the Washington Coast this fall to celebrate fish passage improvements in the Chehalis Basin, and is featured here at the ASRP-funded Middle Fork Wildcat Creek County Line Road Fish Barrier Correction project. Photo taken December 1, 2023.

Photo credit: CBFTF and Kirsten Harma

The ASRP’s Accelerated Project Approval Process

The ASRP built a process to fund projects quickly and on a rolling basis. By streamlining administration and coordinating timely review at all phases of the project, ASRP bolsters capacity and expedites funding decisions.

Locally-based Regional Implementation Teams ensure the projects proposed align with ASRP priorities.

The Technical Review Team reviews concepts and designs for technical merit at key stages throughout project development.

The Steering Committee ensures projects meet programmatic goals prior to recommending for approval.

The Office of Chehalis Basin approves smaller projects, reserving the attention of the Chehalis Basin Board for projects greater than $500,000.

  • The ASRP’s accelerated project development funding pathway allows sponsors to build local capacity, conduct landowner outreach, and create conceptual plans.
  • This year, more technical assistance was made available to Regional Implementation Teams to support projects.
  • Innovative project ideas were welcomed, including plan development at more localized scales.
  • As part of the ASRP’s continuous learning and adaptive management, program staff are spending time evaluating, receiving feedback, and adjusting how the different teams work together.

The ASRP funds projects based on science-informed prioritization of where projects will most benefit species and habitats.

The ASRP program refined our review and approval processes in 2023 including additional support to develop projects and improve information sharing.

Beaver dam analog structure on West Fork Wildcat Creek
Beaver dam analog structure on West Fork Wildcat Creek.

Photo credit: Karl Veggerby

Science, Monitoring, and Adaptive Management

The ASRP’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) supports the Steering Committee by conducting studies and research in the Basin, applying scientific findings from other basins and providing technical recommendations for consideration.

The ASRP organizes restoration and protection actions spatially by Ecological Regions (and smaller Geospatial Units within those Ecological Regions). Currently, implementation focuses on the near-term priority areas (first 10 years) to generate the greatest habitat and species uplift.

Oregon spotted frog sits among egg masses.
Oregon spotted frog sits among egg masses.

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

In 2024, the TAG looks forward to incorporating a new Ecological Region, the Grays Harbor Estuary into the ASRP’s 30-year prioritized plan. All anadromous fish that enter and exit the Chehalis Basin pass through and utilize the estuary, which is a unique habitat for numerous aquatic species, and critical at multiple life stages. Currently, the Grays Harbor shoreline is designated as an ASRP mid-term priority until further restoration and protection actions are identified. Work in the adjacent Chehalis Tidal geospatial unit is on-going and is incorporated into the new Estuary Ecological Region, and is a key element that provides climate change resilience in the basin.

Scientific monitoring informs ASRP plan development and project implementation through adaptive management.

Each year, the ASRP TAG collects and reviews new information emerging both from our scientific monitoring studies and out of basin science (such as Intensively Monitored Watersheds) and provides recommendations for adaptive management to the ASRP Steering Committee through a process described in the ASRP Monitoring and Adaptive Management Plan (2021). 

Lead monitoring scientists share annual updates and emerging findings with the TAG. The TAG synthesizes key findings for the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee incorporates new information into ASRP program and project-level guidance. The Chehalis Basin Board receives an annual summary of actions taken and planned next steps.

In 2022 and 2023, a total of 16 ASRP monitoring studies reported out progress and conclusions (listed in the orange box below). The TAG identified some urgent topics and issues to enhance the ASRP:

  • Rapid climate change and continued degradation of temperature and flow conditions across the basin, including areas critical for spring Chinook salmon in the Newaukum and Skookumchuck rivers
  • Observed freshwater mussel declines and die-offs that continue to raise alarms relative to water quality and other habitat stressors
  • The need for resilient habitats to support the Endangered Species Act listed Oregon spotted frog
  • Incorporation of new assessment data into project guidance
  • Building awareness and understanding around headwater habitat needs and uplift opportunities, including areas occupied by coastal tailed frogs, an ASRP focal species
Julie Tyson, WDFW biologist, holds an Oregon Spotted Frog at West Rocky Prairie
Julie Tyson, WDFW biologist, holds an Oregon spotted frog at West Rocky Prairie.

Photo credit: Kiana Sinner

  • Beaver Dam Analog Project Effectiveness
  • Chehalis Thermalscape
  • Ecology of Non-Native Fish
  • Fish In/Out: Salmon & Steelhead Adults
  • Fish In/Out: Salmon & Steelhead Smolts
  • Freshwater Mussels
  • Native Fish Occupancy and Density
  • Offchannel Reconnection Project
  • Oregon Spotted Frogs
  • Run-Type Composition of Juvenile Chinook Salmon in the Upper Chehalis River Basin
  • Satsop Pond Experimental Reconnection
  • Sediment Wedge Project Effectiveness
  • Stream-Associated Amphibians
  • Thermal Refugia
  • Watershed Health Assessment: Skookumchuck River Early Action Reach
  • Western Toads

Community Involvement

Community involvement and community planning are among the five key ASRP elements and a central component of the ASRP program. Regional Implementation Teams led by in-basin conservation districts guide outreach to landowners and coordination with project sponsors to identify project opportunities and align them with the community’s needs. 

Look Ahead

More information coming soon on the 2024 ASRP Symposium. This two-day event (April 17 to 18) will highlight scientific and project case studies.

2023 Events

In 2023, community engagement expanded to include both fun and formal events. 

  • The Chehalis Basin Film Festival was hosted in February 2023 by the Chehalis Basin Lead Entity, Coast Salmon Partnership, Grays Harbor Conservation District, Grays Harbor Stream Team, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 
  • Five community open houses were held by conservation districts to share information and get input for proposed on-the-ground projects.
  • More than 180 landowners are currently participating with ASRP groups and processes.

Grays Harbor Stream Team Volunteer Event at the Satsop Early Action Reach, Winter 2022.

Photo credit: Grays Harbor Conservation District

ASRP and the Chehalis Basin Strategy

The Chehalis Basin Strategy represents an innovative, collaborative, and forward-looking network of partners tackling complex integrated water resources management.

The ASRP continues to advance restoration projects that dovetail with other Chehalis Basin Strategy programs. Integration of elements across programs is already in action:

  • The Chehalis Basin Strategy Report describes the integrated long-term plan to improve aquatic species and reduce flood damage, updated by this year’s Chehalis Basin Strategy 2023 Year in Review.
  • The Erosion Management Program promotes the use of natural materials in bank protection to maintain and improve stream and riparian habitat while also slowing erosion.
  • The Voluntary Acquisition Program workgroup that develops an acquisition framework to support projects reducing flood damages and improving habitat for aquatic species.
Aerial photo taken from a drone showing the East Fork Satsop River Early Action Reach restoration project site. Photo shows large wood accumulating in areas where engineered wood structures were installed.
East Fork Satsop River Early Action Reach restoration project with engineered wood structures.

Photo credit: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

 A Look Ahead: ASRP’s Critical Role in the Chehalis Basin

Salmon runs in the Chehalis Basin have declined precipitously in recent years.

  • Salmon habitat is reduced by as much as is 80-87% from historical levels.
  • Existing salmon populations are now less than 50% of their historical run sizes.
  • Spring Chinook salmon, culturally significant to the Quinault Indian Nation and the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation as the first salmon species to return to the rivers in the spring, have been petitioned for Endangered Species Act listing and are estimated to be just 23% of the historical population in the Chehalis Basin.

Investments and ASRP actions must ramp up soon to keep pace with the 30-year plan for the basin and projected climate change impacts. Otherwise, Chehalis River spring Chinook could be lost entirely by 2080 or sooner, along with a significant portion of the economically vital steelhead trout runs. 

Climate change is spurring drought and longer, hotter summers. This will extend and expand insufficient stream flows and lethal water temperatures throughout much of the Chehalis Basin with severe expected outcomes for aquatic life.

Winter flooding in parts of the Chehalis Basin plays an important role in habitat creation and ecosystem function. However, the intensity of winter flood and high-flow events are increasing with climate change, and these events can damage spawning grounds, impacting already-struggling fish populations. 

While people, communities, and infrastructure, can adapt to increased flooding and other intensifying effects of climate change, fish and other aquatic species need more help to adapt to these impacts on the same time scale.

ASRP actions address a variety of these needs across the landscape, and especially in the face of climate change, investments in ASRP will continue to play a critical role in building the resilience of the Chehalis Basin’s communities and aquatic resources.

Many ASRP projects have a flood damage reduction benefit:

  • Introducing large wood to slow down the flow of water can reduce erosion and protect land along river banks.
  • Restoring riparian and floodplain habitats gives rivers and streams more room to move and occupy during flood events.
  • Installing flood fencing protects young plantings and keeps large wood in the river and off farm fields.
Heavy machinery installs tree trunks and root wads in a cluster along the side of the stream.
During installation of engineered large wood structures at the Stillman Creek Restoration Project.

Photo credit: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

An aereal photo of the completed log jam: Vertical tree trunks driven into the riverbank soil help anchor horizontal trunks with attached root wads. Behind the logjam, trees and shrubs have been planted along the riverbank.
After installation of engineered large wood structures at the Stillman Creek Restoration Project.

Photo credit: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Spring foliage along the Chehalis River on a sunny afternoon