Chelan County is trying to figure out how to remove woody debris that builds up along the shore of Lake Chelan. 

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife requires permits for any removal of large debris from the lake. 

“The Department of Fish and Wildlife is more concerned that that’s fish habitat, so you cannot remove it from the lake without those permits,” said Chelan County Commissioner Tiffany Gering while holding a public discussion with fellow commissioners Monday morning. 

Gering doesn't think the permitting process would work because a permit would be required for every one of the large numbers of property owners along the lake affected by the debris. 

She took a field trip last week to four sites along the lakes with several groups to survey the buildup of woody debris.  

Gering said the parties involved in the trip were the Chelan County Department of Natural Resources, various business owners, Manson Parks and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

The Department has suggested property owners could avoid the permitting process by pushing the debris back out into the lake, which commissioners believe will be hazardous during the summer boating season. 

If property owners followed that suggestion, the debris would get pushed out several times and continue flowing downstream until it ended up at the Lake Chelan Dam. At that point, Chelan County PUD would take responsibility for removing it.  

Gering noted that the PUD started setting aside money to remove debris from the lake in 2005, and that fund had grown to $150,000. 

She also said there's a machine in Stehekin that could remove the debris which generally flows into the lake from the Stehekin River. 

"It sits up there year-round and could be utilized to remove this woody debris before it ever comes downstream," Gering said. 

The county is currently trying to determine which agency owns the machine, and then get it working to remove the debris. The machine is currently sitting idle.   

The county is also looking at the process installing what are called “break-aways” along the lake, which are manmade structures put in the water that would then help shift where the wood is drifting. 

 County spokesperson Jill FitzSimmons said they don’t have an idea of what a break-away would look like in Lake Chelan.  

A consultant, if the county decided to move in that direction, would have to be hired to design something specific to Lake Chelan, including its prevailing wind direction and currents.  

It’s thought that a variety of agencies would be involved in that process because of permitting issues and the differing interests involved in the endeavor. 

FitzSimmons said it’s important to understand that driftwood will never be to completely removed from Lake Chelan, but the partnering agencies may be able to figure out a plan to relieve some of the pressure points on the lake that seem to attract a lot of driftwood. 

Gering mentioned that some business owners are already spending tens of thousands of dollars removing small debris from their shorelines along the lake. 

The Department of Fish and Wildlife requires a permit if the debris is four inches in diameter and longer than six feet. 

Gering said there was talk about working with the U.S. Forest Service or the U.S. Parks Department or the Army Corp of Engineers to remove woody debris, but partnering with any agency would bring another set of regulations to deal with.  

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