Skinney Creek Restoration

Skinney Creek is a tributary to Chiwaukum Creek, along Highway 2, about 20 miles west of Leavenworth, WA. Being adjacent to a major highway has always had an impact on Skinney Creek. The original highway construction pushed Skinney Creek into a bermed ditch-like channel. Despite the obvious degraded nature of the stream habitat, Skinney Creek continued to support a strong population of steelhead.

Yakama Nation Fisheries approached the Forest Service with the idea of reconstructing Skinney Creek in the footprint of the old highway after highway was realigned. This project would include adding stream sinuosity, large woody material, a variety of habitat types, adding an inset floodplain, and removal of log weirs.

The project began in June of 2021 with instream work starting in July. Much of the mass excavation and new channel construction was able to be completed in the dry. Fish removal took almost a week and, in addition to the hundreds of steelhead, we found several bull trout and a Chinook indicating that this project will also help improve conditions for other ESA-listed fish species. Once fish removal was complete, Skinney Creek was placed into a pipe through the entire project length. The excavated materials were placed on top of the piped creek. Once the channel excavation was completed, the stream was diverted from the pipe and into the new channel.

This project took about 0.5 miles of degraded stream channel and turned it into a sinuous channel with deep pools, good spawning gravel, and over 500 pieces of large wood. The inset floodplain will allow Skinney Creek to meander and react to changing conditions without the worry of impacting the highway. All of the log weir barriers were removed to allow access to all fish and aquatic organisms.

Final revegetation and site rehab was completed during October 2021. Monitoring of the site will continue and will focus on revegetation, channel conditions, and fish use.

This project was completed by the Yakama Nation Fisheries Upper Columbia Habitat Restoration Project and the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, with project management by Jason Breidert, Yakama Nation Wenatchee Project Biologist, and Mariah Mayfield, USFS District Fish Biologist. The engineering design and oversight was provided by Inter-fluve and the construction was completed by Kysar and Koistinen.

Skinney creek original condition

Photo 1. Preconstruction condition of Skinney Creek. The creek was bermed on both sides with very little variety in habitat. While steelhead have been observed spawning in the creek, the substrate was very embedded and rearing habitat was limited.


old log weirs in skinney creek

Photo 2. Log weirs were installed as part of the 2013 highway reroute. These weirs were undersized, failing, and, in some cases, acting as a fish barrier.


skinney creek aerial preconstruction

Photo 3. Skinney Creek preconstruction. Skinney Creek had been bermed between the old highway prism (cleared area on left) and existing highway alignment on right. The flow path of Skinney Creek is from bottom to top of photo.


skinney creek aerial after constrcution

Photo 4. Skinney Creek post construction. The old highway prism was removed to create a sinuous channel with inset floodplain.


skinney creek during construction

Photo 5. During construction. The new channel was created to add length and additional holding and spawning habitat. Large wood was anchored in place using pilings and stream bed material was imported as needed.


skinney creek during construction

Photo 6. The majority of the work was completed in the dry.