Andy Bronson / Herald file                                 A joint project by the Tulalip Tribes and the city of Snohomish will see to the removal the Pilchuck River Dam by summer 2020.

Andy Bronson / Herald file A joint project by the Tulalip Tribes and the city of Snohomish will see to the removal the Pilchuck River Dam by summer 2020.

Pilchuck Dam removal would clear the way for salmon

Backers of the fish-habitat project near Granite Falls have scheduled a March 19 open house.

GRANITE FALLS — Plans are moving ahead to get rid of a major barrier to fish on the Pilchuck River.

Anyone who wants to learn more about the Pilchuck River Dam demolition is welcome to attend a March 19 open house. It’s scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Granite Falls Library on 815 E. Galena St.

“The demolition timeline is still looking like summer (August) 2020,” said Brett Shattuck, a restoration ecologist with the Tulalip Tribes. “We continue to develop designs, permitting and conduct community outreach.”

The city of Snohomish joined forces with the tribes to work on removing the structure, which the city owns. For more than a century, the dam and its forerunner supplied drinking water to town. It’s unclear why city leaders chose the spot about 15 miles away.

The dam blocks about 14 miles of the upper Pilchuck River. There is a fish ladder, but it isn’t effective.

By restoring access to habitat, the tribes hope to boost the recovery of fish species that once thrived there. Steelhead and chinook salmon are both listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Coho salmon, a species of concern, also could benefit.

The first wooden diversion dam was built in 1912, a year after a fire destroyed part of downtown Snohomish. The concrete dam went up in 1932.

About two years ago, the city decommissioned the dam and a nearby water-treatment plant. They now serve no practical purpose.

Snohomish has relied on the tribes’ expertise to navigate federal and state regulations. “The tribes have been instrumental in helping us move it through the permitting process,” said Steve Schuller, Snohomish’s city administrator and utility general manager. “It would be laborious for us as a smaller city.”

The governments have made progress in securing grants for the work, which is expected to cost at least $1.8 million. It would involve heavy equipment working in and around the water.

Staff from the tribes and city plan to attend the upcoming meeting to answer questions about the project. At least one more public meeting is expected, Shattuck said, likely this summer.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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