Cooperative Project Improves Fish Habitat near Forks

The Quileute Tribe, Rayonier Inc. and volunteers have worked to improve fish habitat on a tributary of Cedar Creek since January 2019, culminating in tree planting in spring 2021. Cedar Creek drains directly to the Pacific Ocean on the North Olympic Peninsula near Forks.

After decommissioning a stream crossing, Rayonier pulled a large, fish-blocking culvert out of the tributary and regraded slopes leading down to the stream to align with natural grades. The Quileute Tribe obtained funding to add woody debris to the stream and plant trees.

On a sunny day earlier this year, tribal employees, Rayonier silviculturist Neris Biciunas and volunteers planted 750 trees on the precarious slopes. The trees were a combination of cedar and Sitka spruce planted in the same hole. It’s thought that the prickly spruce will help keep deer and elk from feeding on the young trees.

“It’s been a while since we were able to get everything aligned to do one of these cooperative projects, so it’s great to get this one knocked out,” said Nicole Rasmussen, water quality biologist for the Quileute Tribe.

By removing the culvert and restoring the natural grade, coho salmon and steelhead will have access to an additional half mile of spawning and rearing habitat while the dangerous buildup of sediment behind the culvert has been removed.

The Quileute Tribe paid for the placement of the woody debris and the planting with Salmon Recovery Funding Board money. Rayonier Inc. donated the trees and paid for removing the culvert, including the grade work.

“Every bit of fish habitat matters if we’re going to recover salmon populations,” Rasmussen said.

A crew of Quileute Tribe and Rayonier Inc. personnel and volunteers plant trees on a project that removed a culvert and bridge and restored streamflow and habitat near Forks. Trees they have already planted appear in the foreground.