How a River Breathes

Filmmaker John Gussman caught two views of the new levee project on the Dungeness River recently. This is what is also known as a floodplain. By allowing the river to “breathe” and overflow it’s banks, without endangering manmade structures like homes and farms, you save the river and the ecosystem that it exists in. As you can see, this is less than one month apart. Allowing home development in such a location is asking for problems, and problems were what the Dungeness valley had for many decades after white people attempted to tame the river. This is a compromise. The river is allowed to breathe, a few farms and homes are paid to relocate, and moving forward, the likelihood of more salmon coming back to a habitat that they can survive and reproduce in is given a much higher probability of success. In addition to fish, this promotes a wide array of flora and fauna, including ducks, geese, and many others. The Dungeness River Management Team (DRMT), which includes farmers, duck hunters, and with help from the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe worked for decades to make this possible, with millions in help from the federal and state government and our State and Federal representatives. For a more detailed look at this issue, you can watch my 2010 film, “Working for the River” that covers the issues in recovering the Dungeness.

Thanks to John Gussman for use of the drone photos. John is available for video and still work. Check out Doubleclick Productions – Photography-Video Production-Stock Imagery-UAV Drone Services located on the Olympic Peninsula ( for his other projects.

Dungeness River Fish Passage Video

An update on the efforts to allow returning salmon to get up the Dungeness River. Thanks to the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, who continue to show leadership and dedication to saving the historic runs of fish on the river that their people have fished forever. This is the effects of our inability to deal with the root causes of climate change, which is out of control fossil fuel use.

Dungeness River Fish Passage 2015C from NW Indian Fisheries Commission on Vimeo.

Interest flags in pink salmon fishery at Dungeness River mouth after number of returning fish turns out lower – PDN

I’ve shot video on the small group of tribal fishermen that work the beaches at the mouth of the Dungeness. They are out at dawn and often working hard to catch a few fish. It appears that this year will be a washout for them. The fish just aren’t returning in numbers large enough to warrant going out.

Interest has waned in a pink salmon fishery at the mouth of the Dungeness River now that the numbers originally expected haven’t developed, said the natural resources director for the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe. The beach seine fishery, in which weighted nets are used to pull fish to shore, was developed by co-managers of the Jamestown S’Klallam, Port Gamble S’Klallam and Point No Point Treaty Council and approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to weed out some of the 1.3 million pinks expected to return this season, said Scott Chitwood on Friday. Leah Leach reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

See also: Crews deepen channels to help struggling salmon amid drought Hal Bernton reports. (Seattle Times)

Crews to prep Dungeness River this week for huge run of pink salmon – PDN

With the Dungeness River at historic low flows, this is going to be a most interesting year to see if WDFW and others like the Dungeness River Management Team can make this run successful.

Work could begin this week on creating as hospitable an environment as possible for hordes of pink salmon expected to return to the Dungeness River later this month. A preseason prediction that 1.3 million pinks will return to the Dungeness this year may not come to pass, said Mike Gross, biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, who is based in Montesano. That estimate was based on a run of 400,000 pinks in the Dungeness two years ago. (Peninsula Daily News)

Dungeness watershed projects get a funding boost – Sequim Gazette

And closer to home (from the previous article), work being done by the Dungeness River Management Team which includes a diverse group of people (including Tribes) to push forward to keep restoring the lower portions of the Dungeness.

Efforts at the Dungeness River watershed to reduce flood risk, conserve water and restore habitat will push forward into next year after receiving $7.5 million in state funding through the Floodplains By Design initiative. The grant administered by Adam Sant for the Washington Department of Ecology allows for officials with the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Clallam Conservation District, Clallam County and the North Olympic Lead Entity for Salmon to continue their collaborative work on the lower Dungeness restoration project. (Sequim Gazette)

For background on this, I was commissioned to produce a video on the overall work of the DRMT by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe last year. If you want to see it, go to their site, and choose either the long or short version from the right hand side.

Group to sue state over Dungeness water rule – PDN

Sad, but expected. They likely will lose, as other suits have, and cost the State hundreds of thousands to defend.

The Olympic Resource Protection Council has decided it will sue the state over a rule that governs water use in the Dungeness Valley. In a meeting Thursday night at the Sequim library, the group membership agreed to pursue a lawsuit against the state Department of Ecology in an effort to force the agency to review the Dungeness Water Rule…. Water use in the basin was restricted by the Dungeness Water Rule, a measure instituted January 2013 by Ecology with the aim of preserving water in the Dungeness River for both human use and for aquatic species when its flow diminishes in dry summer months. Joe Smillie (Peninsula Daily News)

$3.8 million project to provide face-lift for Dungeness’ 3 Crabs estuarine area – PDN

Work to begin on the final phase of the 3Crabs area restoration work, over on the east side of the Dungeness River estuary. This has been a long time coming, and is a good piece of work to help salmon move back into the estuary area in greater numbers. Runs have been increasing in recent years, with the work already done.

DUNGENESS –– Rerouting Sequim-Dungeness Way, removing a century of shoreline armoring and expanding wetland lagoons will soon be done under a plan to restore the beach and estuary at 3 Crabs.

Read the whole story at the PDN:

New video – Restoration on the Dungeness River

Just completed and launched the video ” Working for the River: Restoring the Dungeness”.  Shot over the last 6 months.

The Dungeness River flows from the Olympic Mountains, down through the Sequim Valley, and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Dungeness Bay. It drains a watershed area of almost 270 square miles. While recent returns of Pink salmon to the Dungeness have been robust, a variety of human activities over the past century has resulted in the listing of four other Dungeness salmon stocks as threatened under ESA. This film tells the story of some of the efforts to restore the river over the last 25 years –by landowners, farmers, tribes, irrigation districts, and other partners– and how you can help.

This is the long version, 15+ minutes but has the complete story.

This is the short version, 7  minutes.

Peninsula salmon projects get $4.5 million – PDN

Lots of good projects that are going to give jobs to folks here on the Peninsula, and help restore salmon habitat. The work is far from being completed, but it’s good to see these projects and land purchases get funded. Tying this together with the work described by Earth Economics over the weekend on this site, it’s worth it to note that there is value in these ecosystem renewal projects. Slowing the rivers by putting in log jams, for example, do not just provide scientifically proven habitat for salmon (especially young salmon migrating downstream), but they also aide in flood protection among other benefits. Flood plain protection is a value that lowers the cost to repairing damage from floods over multiple decades.

The state has awarded $4.5 million in grants for new salmon restoration projects on the North Olympic Peninsula. ….

Rob Ollikainen reports.

There’s quite a bit more to the story at:


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Dungeness River has biggest salmon run in a half-century – PDN

So it would appear that at least some of the restoration work on the Dungeness is bearing fruit. One year doesn’t make a trend, but the trend has been going in the right direction for some time now. The Dungeness River Management Team celebrated their 25th year as a collaborative effort to help bring back the salmon. This is a great present to them.

The biggest run of pink salmon in the Dungeness River since 1963 is underway. The biannual summer run of pink salmon, also known as humpbacks or humpies, has filled the river with spawning fish so full that people easily can see the fish just about anywhere in the Dungeness River, said Scott Chitwood, natural resources director of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe. Arwyn Rice reports.

Public comment period begins today on proposed water management rule for the Dungeness

OLYMPIA – The public can submit comments beginning today on a proposed water management rule for the Dungeness watershed.

If adopted, the new rule drafted by the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) will protect existing water supplies for current uses and fish habitat and make it easier for local governments to affirm that water is legally available for future water uses. The new rule will bring certainty to the process of obtaining water for new uses in a basin where a growing population and limited water availability have prevented Ecology from permitting new water rights since the 1990s.

A new water management rule for the Dungeness has been recommended by the Local Leaders Water Management Group, which has been working with Ecology since February 2011 to identify water supply issues in the watershed and recommend solutions. Members of the LLWG (their acronym) include Clallam County, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, city of Sequim, the Sequim-Dungeness Water Users Association, and Ecology.

“The draft water management rule for the Dungeness basin is an excellent example of what collaboration and cooperation between state government and the local community can achieve in protecting our water resources,” said Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant. “This rule if adopted will ensure that the water needs of local residents as well as growth and economic development and fish habitat are met into the future.”

The proposed rule would:

  • Establish instream flow levels (a water right for the stream) in the Dungeness to protect fish and wildlife habitat.
  • Establish reserves of water for future indoor domestic use.
  • Allow water storage projects.
  • Require mitigation for all new use of water, including permit-exempt wells.
  • Require measuring of new water use.
  • Close surface water to new withdrawals with the exception of seasonal water from the Dungeness.

The new rule will not affect:

  • Existing water rights at the time the rule becomes effective (tentatively in the fall of 2012), including continued use of permit-exempt wells where regular beneficial use began previously.
  • Tribal or federal reserved rights to water.

An economic Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) has been completed for the proposed rule which has been filed with the state code reviser. Over 20 years, the analysis shows the projected benefits of adopting the new rule exceeding the costs.

The proposed water management rule for the Dungeness is available online. Visitors to the Website can get directions on submitting comments electronically on the rule, submitting comments by e-mail or by mailing comments to Ecology. Comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. July 9, 2012. Ecology expects adoption of the rule no earlier than August 31, 2012.

An open house and public hearing on the proposed rule is scheduled Thursday, June 28, 2012, at the Guy Cole Center in Carrie Blake Park, 202 North Blake Ave. in Sequim, WA.

  • Open house beginning at 5 p.m.
  • Presentation with a question and answer session at 6 p.m. followed by a public hearing.


Media Contacts:

  • Dan Partridge, 360-407-7139 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 360-407-7139 end_of_the_skype_highlighting;
  • Linda Kent, 360-407-6239 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 360-407-6239 end_of_the_skype_highlighting;

Ecology’s Dungeness Water Management website (

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