Pilchuck Dam to be removed to let salmon run easier
SNOHOMISH — The Pilchuck Dam is coming down to give salmon room to roam.
The City of Snohomish and Tulalip Tribes are collaborating to remove the infrastructure and let the river revert to its natural state.
If everything falls into place, the diversion dam near Granite Falls could be demolished by the fall of 2020 said Brett Shattuck, a Tulalip Tribes restoration ecologist.
The project is estimated to cost about $1.7 million. A $1.49 million state grant is pending, and sponsor matches total $187,000, city administrator Steve Schuller said in an email.
“I reached out to the Tulalip Tribes a couple of years ago,” Schuller said. “We needed their help to allow the City to get out of the water business.” The tribes provided grant application assistance, ecological expertise and design.
Snohomish previously used the Pilchuck Dam’s diversion structure for half of its drinking water supply, with the other half coming from Everett, but the dam-sourced H2O stopped making financial sense several years ago.
The city spent $3.1 between 2008 and 2012, including capital improvements and operations, for water which would have cost $476,000 if sourced exclusively from Everett, Schuller said. Everett water costs have since risen, but the expense is still significantly lower than through the Pilchuck Dam.
The deconstruction will yield ecological and cultural benefits in addition to cost savings.
“Chinook, Coho, Steelhead and other species in the Pilchuck River are vital to our culture, and are iconic to our region,” said Tulalip Chairwoman Marie Zackuse in a press release. The collaboration would “move the dial” towards salmon recovery and benefit the tribes and the city, Zackuse said.
The project will restore 37 miles of “habitat upstream of the dam that (is) hugely vital,” Shattuck said, not only for the salmon and other fish, but for orcas, whose primary food is salmon.
The original Pilchuck River Diversion Dam for a new water source was put in place in 1912 in reaction to Snohomish’s Great Fire of 1911. The current intake system and dam were finished in 1932.
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