The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has changed the work times for mineral prospecting in and around the Sultan and Similkameen rivers to avoid periods when incubating eggs and young fish are present.
The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved the changes on Friday, April 20. The commission also authorized the department to remove 1 to 1.5 million board feet of timber from the 4-0 Wildlife Area in the Blue Mountains of Asotin County to improve wildlife habitat, restore forest health, and reduce the risk of severe wildfires.
Until recently, a section of the Sultan River in Snohomish County was open to mineral prospecting using a variety of equipment, including suction dredges, sluices, and high bankers, for more than seven months each year.
That changed in 2016, when a fish-passage project at the City of Everett diversion dam opened an additional 6.3 miles of the river to spawning salmon and steelhead, said Randi Thurston, WDFW habitat protection manager.
“Last year, the department adopted an emergency rule that prohibited the use of certain types of prospecting equipment in that area, except during August,” Thurston said. “This year, the commission adopted that new work window as a permanent rule.”
The new rule applies to the use of mineral prospecting equipment in the water, Thurston said.
In a separate action, the commission agreed to expand the work window for mineral prospecting on the Similkameen River to include the month of June from Enloe Dam to Palmer Creek in Okanogan County. That decision was based on a new study by WDFW that found no evidence of incubating trout or whitefish eggs there in June, Thurston said.
“Prospectors urged us to conduct the study, and they were right about the results,” she said.
Under the new rule, the work window for prospecting on the Similkameen River from Enloe Dam to Palmer Creek will extend from June 1 through Oct. 31.
For more information about mineral prospecting in Washington, see https://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/mining/.
State wildlife managers plan to conduct the 4-0 forest restoration project this summer, but work may not be completed until the summer of 2019. Logging operations will be limited by fire restrictions and during periods of high recreational use, including deer and elk hunting seasons, said WDFW forest manager Richard Tveten.
In addition to the commercial logging operation, WDFW will also thin small trees from approximately 250 acres on the 4-0 property, he said. Project managers plan to burn logging debris in slash piles and will notify the public if they decide plan to conduct prescribed burns.