FORKS (August 20, 2003) – The waters of Owl Creek muddy up immediately when Jill Silver, biologist for the Hoh Tribe, uses her hand to swirl the gray clay lining the river bottom. The gooey mud is washing into the creek from a large deposit of clay on the bank and Silver suspects it is harming fish. Tracking and monitoring sites where clay is moving into streams is part of a pilot watershed monitoring program the Hoh Tribe is beginning this year.

While the tribe has actively monitored many aspects of salmon and salmon recovery over the years, the new program will merge all the different layers of information into one computer database linked to a new Geographic Information System (GIS). The new tool will help analyze complex habitat and water questions based on thousands of hours of past and current research.

“In many cases, we may have the data to answer a question on the status of a particular area or stock of fish, but it’s buried in a file cabinet, on data forms or in old reports,” said Silver, habitat biologist for the Hoh Tribe. “The database and GIS will organize everything we have in one place so we can track changes and evaluate trends in habitat and water quality important to fish.”

Tracking the clay sediment sources in the watershed is one example of how the program can be used. Clay is a fine sediment that can smother salmon eggs in the their streambed nests in the streambed, or cause gill damage to fish. It also decreases water clarity, impacting the ability of fish to feed.

Technicians are mapping the location of these clay sources measuring their size and the distance the clay travels. This information will be entered into the database and GIS, to track the sediments over time. The data will eventually be used to develop a study on the effects of this fine sediment on juvenile fish and eggs in the gravel.

The tribe plans to share the information compiled in the monitoring program. “We hope this will improve efforts by agencies
and landowners engaged in land management and planning activities,” Silver said.

The database will include:

    – Information about the historic channel movements of the Hoh River and its tributaries
    – Sites where fish-blocking culverts have been or need to be replaced to improve fish passage
    – Water quality and fish habitat monitoring sites
    – Sightings of different fish species and areas of high fish use
    – The location, history and types of various restoration projects, and
    – Historic data collected in the watershed by the tribe and cooperating landowners and agencies

The database will be linked to a GIS where different map layers show the location of streams and wetlands, roads, and vegetation. “This will allow us to contrast and compare current condition from previous monitoring information,” said Silver. “We’ll be able to click on a specific location on a map, and bring up specific data or summaries of research showing what information has been collected at that site,” Silver said. “We’re also including a bibliography of all scientific literature ever completed in the Hoh watershed.”

The tribe is working with a non-profit scientific group named 10,000 Years Institute to develop the program, incorporate standard monitoring protocols, and to provide trained staff for some of the highly technical monitoring tasks. “Some of the parameters we’re interested in don’t have established regulatory standards or monitoring methods, so 10,000 Years Institute is assisting us in developing those where needed,” said Silver.

The $210,000 program is funded by two federal grants, a $190,000 Coastal Salmon Recovery grant, and a $20,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant that paid for much of the monitoring equipment.

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For More Information, contact: Jill Silver, biologist, Hoh Tribe, (360) 374-6735 or jsilver@waypt.com; Debbie Preston,

Coastal Information Officer, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360) 374-5501.

Photos available, high resolution via e-mail.