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River team hits 20-year mark





The river is rebounding.

After 20 years of collaborative work, the Dungeness River Management Team has partially restored the river's channel, habitat and fish runs and has helped organize effective water conservation projects.

But there is more to do.

With past successes and future challenges in mind, the team is taking a break to celebrate two decades of work for the Dungeness River, while looking forward to the years to come.

The event is scheduled after the team's June 11 meeting at the Dungeness River Audubon Center at Railroad Bridge Park, 2151 W. Hendrickson Road. The meeting will begin at 2 p.m. and the celebration will start at 4 p.m., which will include a presentation of elementary school winners in the team's first logo creation contest.

Dungeness River Management Team meetings are designed to bring together different groups with a stake in the river. The team has no official jurisdiction over the river, but acts as a place to coordinate work, research and planning.

"One of the keys to the Dungeness River Management Team's success on the broad array of issues that come before it is the diversity of voices and the sense of collaboration around the table," said Clallam County Commissioner Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, indicating members' successes often involve the entire team.

Over the past 20 years the team has worked with irrigators to cut their average withdrawals from the river by 49 percent. Also, with help from the Clallam Conservation District and others, irrigators have installed an estimated 215,000 feet of irrigation pipe to conserve water and improve its quality.

To support fish runs, the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife released in excess of 12 million juvenile chinook salmon into the Dungeness and Grey Wolf rivers.

"The Dungeness River and the fish resources it produces are integral to our tribal history and culture," said W. Ron Allen, tribal chair. "A thriving, productive Dungeness River is essential if we wish to enjoy the benefits it provides to our fish and wildlife, environment, community and local economy."

Some landowners along the river, along with the tribe and conservation district, have constructed 47 log jams to stabilize eroding banks and to provide enhanced fish habitat.

In land preservation, the North Olympic Land Trust has helped place conservation easements on 453 acres in the Dungeness watershed and 663 more acres of fish and fowl habitat have been donated or purchased to provide a healthy corridor for the river.

"The work I was most proud of was for water conservation," former veteran team member Ann Seiter said. "It was one of those issues that was contentious at first, and although it still can be, the solutions of conservation and better irrigation delivery are becoming evident in the river and have gained establishment among stakeholders."

Seiter was there 20 years ago working for the Jamestown tribe when former county commissioner Dave Cameron organized the team.

"Quality and quantity were the big concerns in the beginning, which were tied in with flood mitigation and an over-

allocation of water rights," Seiter said. "The meetings could be heated back then, but we began working through our emotions and really paid attention to each other and the data science was giving us."

Seiter was with the team for 15 years. Early on, the team was focused on doing research, gathering data, hearing from people affected by river policy and including those who had any authority or stake in the river.

"Every time we got a grip on one problem or circumstance, we'd figure out there were layers upon layers, which is really how the environment and politics work," Seiter said. "So all we could do was keep including new information and stakeholders. The more information and collaboration you have, the better outlook you have, which will bring out the best strategies for success."

Five years after her retirement from the tribe in 2003, Seiter still does private environmental consulting work. She said she's thrilled to see the new members of the team carrying out the common theme of collaboration the team worked so hard to establish during its first decade.

To find more information on the Dungeness River Management Team, visit www.olympus.net/community/dungenesswc. For more information on the River Center, visit www.

dungenessrivercenter.com.

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