Jamestown S’Klallam and property owners restore McDonald Creek to its full potential

The Jamestown S’Klallam and Lower Elwha Klallam tribes are working with McDonald Creek property owners to make the stream more salmon friendly.

Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe's Darryl Charles ties together logs for the McDonald Creek logjam project.

Coho and wild steelhead historically have been found in the 13-mile long creek that runs a straight shot from the Olympic Mountains and empties into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, just west of Sequim.

Decades of timber harvest, stormwater pouring into the creek, and other land use practices have degraded the quality of the stream. Most of the conifer forests lining the stream were harvested long ago leaving a creek lined by alder trees. Stable logjams are scarce, allowing gravel that salmon need for spawning to be flushed downstream.

To restore the natural functions of the creek and restore its potential for salmon habitat, property owners teamed up with the tribes in 2009 and 2010 to construct logjams in the 40-foot wide creek bed, plant western red cedar on the stream banks and remove English ivy.  The planted cedars will eventually fall into the creek, creating natural salmon habitat. The piles of logs help create pools where salmon can feed and rest, as well as capture the high quality gravel that salmon need for spawning.

“I’ve been watching salmon habitat degrade over the years and doing this type of work is really important,” said property owner Paul McBeth, who has been spearheading the effort with his neighbors. “I really want this to be a place where my grandkids can come down and see fish swimming up the creek.”

A major storm in November 2009 rearranged last year’s logjams; this summer’s project was to rebuild the logjams that had moved.

“Last year, some jams broke apart and some jams were made bigger, which is fine,” said Byron Rot, habitat manager for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. “It all helps to create diverse salmon habitat.”