EATONVILLE (August 22, 2006) – The Nisqually Tribe and the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group are removing a rock berm at Smallwood Park to improve salmon habitat by replacing it with a series of logjams.
The 10 foot tall berm was built along 300 feet of the river to prevent erosion of Smallwood Park, but at the same time has impeded salmon spawning and rearing in the Mashel River. “The habitat around Smallwood Park isn’t good at all for salmon,” said Jeanette Dorner, salmon recovery manager for the Nisqually Tribe. “The berm constricts the river, intensifying flow, making it hard for salmon nests to survive, and there isn’t anywhere for young salmon to rest or feed.”
The series of four logjams along the river near the park will serve the dual purpose of protecting the park from erosion and providing habitat for salmon. “Logjams are a creative way to protect the park while also providing critical reading rearing and spawning habitat that is lacking in this reach of the Mashel,” said Teresa Moon, project manager for the SPSSEG.
Logjams create the habitat diversity that is important to salmon. Juvenile salmon prefer cool, deep pools where they can hide from predators and find food. Adult salmon like the slow, calm water logjams create and the broad gravel spawning beds.
A similar project downstream of the park completed two years ago is already showing benefits to salmon. “We’ve seen a sixty percent increase of young coho salmon using the habitat created by those logjams,” said Dorner. Coho salmon spend more time in freshwater than other salmon before migrating to the ocean so they benefit more from freshwater habitat improvements. “Coho salmon have been struggling in the Nisqually for years. By improving their habitat, we give them a better chance at surviving.”
Because the Mashel is one of only two tributaries to the Nisqually River with suitable habitat for Chinook, improvements to the Mashel will benefit that species as well as coho. “If a catastrophic event wiped out Chinook in the mainstem Nisqually River, refuges like the Mashel would be important in their recovery,” she said. Nisqually Chinook are part of the Puget Sound stock listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.
“Protecting and restoring salmon habitat is the most direct route to recovering salmon in the Nisqually watershed,” said Dorner. “Every time we improve habitat or keep it from being damaged, we bring more salmon back to the Nisqually.”
For more information, contact: Jeanette Dorner, salmon recovery manager, Nisqually Tribe, (360) 438-8687. Theresa Moon, project manager, SPSSEG, (360) 412-0808. Emmett O’Connell, information officer, NWIFC, (360) 528-4304, [email protected]