Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Kids in the Creek!

On May 5, 6 and 7 approximately 300 high school students found themselves on the scenic grounds of the Entiat Fish Hatchery for the annual Kids in the Creek event (KITC). KITC is a hands on outdoor education program in which high school biology students study  stream ecology on the Entiat River. Thousands of North Central Washington students have experienced this unique learning opportunity since its inception in 1992.

Each day at KITC students are split into six teams which rotate between six learning stations throughout the day. Each station is led by resource professionals (Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, Chelan County Natural Resources Department, United States Forest Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Team Naturaleza, Wenatchee School District, Trout Unlimited, Ponderosa Community, AmeriCorps and the Public Utility District) and focuses on key components of stream ecology.

Invertebrate Investigators- At this station the students dawn baggy, clown-sized waders and take to the stream with nets to collect macro invertebrates. Using microscopes, students compare their samples with identification charts to determine which species they’ve found and get an indication of stream health.

Riparian RX- Students at this station take a walk through the Entiat River’s riparian zone learning about adaptation, the function of riparian zones, stream bank restoration and flora and fauna interrelationships. Students are exposed to field techniques and tools used to determine ground cover, canopy cover and overall riparian health.

Habitat Sense – At habitat sense students examine physical aspects of the river and discuss what good fish habitat looks like. These attributes include riffles, glides, pools, substrate and embeddedness.

Fish Health- As the station title suggests, the focus here is fish health and the environmental factors that affect fish. Students also learn about fish anatomy and environmental stressors.

Stream Flow- At this station students use mathematical equations they’ve learned in the classroom to calculate the stream flow of a side channel of the Entiat River. After calculating the flow, the students discuss what varying flows mean for the ecosystem, especially at extreme high and low flows.

Water Quality- Here, students learn to measure the pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen and temperature of a river. They then use these measurements to discuss and quantify stream health.

Upon completing each station, at the end of the day, each team is charged with coming up with a management plan for a swath of riverside property. These plans are then presented to peers and several resource professionals who critique each plan.

This year’s KITC was a huge success. Everything went just as planned and everyone involved learned something they could take with them. A few of the participating Wenatchee High School students were asked what they learned at KITC. This is how one replied: “it is important to us to have healthy streams…we really affect our watershed.”

Cascadia would like to thank Entiat Fish Hatchery for providing a beautiful venue, Alcoa and South Douglas Conservation District for their funding, and the Entiat Volunteer Service group for all their hard work and support. We would also like to thank all the resource professionals who came out to share their knowledge with the next generation of land managers!

Below are more Wenatchee High School students’ replies when asked what they learned at KITC.
* How important riparians are; why it is important to us to have healthy streams; how we really affect our watershed.
* Learned it's hard to catch a fish; fish are good at hiding; construction sites are way too dirty.
*That fish need healthy/non-polluted water to live; all streams have different habitat for different bugs; that biologists have very hands on jobs.
* It's very important to keep our environment clean for the Wenatchee watershed.
* That learning can be fun; you don't always learn in classrooms; hands on is good.
* How much the scientists care; how interesting macroinvertebrates are; how fun it was.
* It was fun to learn more stuff about the land; I thought it was going to be boring but it was fun; that fish and trees need to be helped and saved from being turned into stores and homes.

Today's snowpack in North Central Washington is 31% of its 29 year average (

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wenatchee River Appreciation

Heading into what is sure to be a warmer than usual spring and summer and with such a measly snowpack in the mountains, Cascadia Conservation District and a group of well-intentioned community members headed to the banks of Brender Creek for our annual Wenatchee River Appreciation event. This year’s event was all about repairing the disturbed riparian area along the Wenatchee River tributary.

The banks of Brender Creek, adjacent to the former Cashmere mill site, has been one of Cascadia’s project sites over the winter and into the spring. It’s a site that has seen extensive cleanup efforts over the last few years, with the Port of Chelan fronting the bill for removal of debris and pollution accumulated over years of mill activity, with the intention to sell the land. 

With funding from the Department of Ecology, Cascadia and partnering agencies Chelan County Port District and Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group provided about 250 plants (ponderosa, Oregon grape, mock orange and golden currant), planting equipment and refreshments for volunteers. Clad in dusty work clothes and worn leather gloves, nearly 30 community members came out to help plant throughout a couple hundred yards of the Brender Creek riparian.

With so many eager hands getting plants in the ground, the event lasted about two and a half hours, culminating in a raffle in which two Wenatchee High School students won photographs by local artist and Cascadia Project Manager Michael Cushman. Cascadia would like to thank Cascade Quality Water and Crunch Pack for providing refreshments.

Today’s snowpack is 31% of the 34 year average (