Upper Quinault River Roads and Access Planning
Planning phase underway to develop sustainable roads and public access solutions, improve community safety and restore habitat for salmon.
The Quinault Indian Nation began habitat restoration work in the upper Quinault River Watershed during the mid-2000s out of deep concern for the declining health and abundance of Quinault River sockeye (Blueback) salmon. As the Nation worked with land managers, road managers, and private landowners to address challenges facing salmon, it became apparent that much of the road and public access system in the upper Quinault River watershed would be unsustainable for the long-term due its location within the floodplain and channel migration zone of the river. Additionally, aging roads infrastructure, undersized bridges that impair flood conveyance and culverts that impede fish passage are issues to be addressed as well. Unfortunately, many management practices intended to maintain and protect the road and access system were contributing to the degradation and loss of similar salmon habitats that the Nation is trying to restore.
Road infrastructure, facilities and public access is frequently damaged or destroyed by erosion and flooding due to their location within the floodplain and channel migration zone of the upper Quinault River and its tributaries. Catastrophic flood, landslide, and erosion events over the years have destroyed entire road segments, resulting in emergency repairs that have become chronic and costly problems for road managers. Current road infrastructure including the methods used to protect them, inhibit natural habitat-forming processes resulting in continued salmon habitat degradation and loss. Without proactive action to develop sustainable long-term solutions, road infrastructure repair and maintenance costs will increase and salmon habitat conditions will continue to deteriorate. Local residents, businesses, visitors, and property owners who depend on a reliable, safe and functional road and public access system will remain vulnerable to risks associated with erosion, channel migration and flooding.
To address road and public access issues, the Nation developed and implemented the Upper Quinault River Restoration – Sustainable Roads and Access Planning Project. The planning project consists of project management and coordination, alternatives development and conceptual designs, a feasibility study, and establishing a decision-making framework for environmental compliance and future implementation of agreed upon solutions. The planning process is designed to provide transparency and opportunity for collaboration among the various stakeholders. Road and access conceptual alternatives will be developed and then evaluated to identify a suite of feasible long-term solutions that provide access to residences, private property, Olympic National Park, maintain the Quinault loop road, and satisfy shared community interests and values. The project will be completed over a period of several years at a pace that allows for sharing and review of information and input from stakeholders at regular intervals throughout the project. Stakeholders include the local community and businesses, private landowners, land managers, road managers, and the public. Funding for the project is provided by a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology – Floodplains by Design Program.
- Address and Support Community Interests and Values
- Improve Habitat Conditions in the upper Quinault River valley
- Provide Sustainable Access in the upper Quinault River valley
Historically, the upper Quinault River was made up of one or more stable channels. Today the river is more unstable with the single channel moving across the river valley much more rapidly and extensively which has reduced the availability and quality of spawning and rearing habitat for salmon. This rapid channel movement has also resulted in the river affecting infrastructure within the channel migration zone and will continue to be a significant threat to roads, private property, access and public safety without action that changes conditions over the long-term.