Logjam projects move forward on Nooksack River

The Nooksack Indian Tribe recently received funding to install 36 logjams that will provide habitat for juvenile and adult chinook salmon in the Nooksack River.

Clearing of forests along the river has deprived the river of large wood that is important for salmon habitat. Chinook populations have declined along with the loss of good habitat. Engineered logjams improve channel stability and create deep pools of cool water.

Over the past several years, the tribe has overseen 15 engineered logjam projects in the North and South Forks of the Nooksack River. One of the new projects involves constructing 20 logjams in the Nesset reach upstream of Acme on the South Fork. The project is the first of three phases designed to increase the number and depth of pools as well as habitat diversity and amount of woody cover.

“Chinook recovery is a top priority for the tribe,” said Gary MacWilliams, director of the Nooksack Tribe’s Natural Resources Department. “These logjams will help form pools that provide important hiding and resting habitat, as well as refuge from high river temperatures, for adult and juvenile chinook.”

The South Fork Nooksack chinook population is critically low, with fewer than 100 fish returning each year since 2007. Several years ago, the Lummi and Nooksack tribes started a captive broodstock program to preserve the run, but habitat projects are essential to ensure lasting recovery.

Nesset reach is expected to be heavily used by adult chinook returning to the nearby Skookum Creek hatchery as part of the captive broodstock program. Steelhead, cutthroat and bull trout, and coho, chum, sockeye and pink salmon also will benefit from the project.

The 16 logjams in the Farmhouse reach upstream of Kendall on the North Fork are designed to restore stable spawning habitat for chinook by encouraging formation and growth of forested islands that slow rapid channel migration and deliver large wood to the river.

“As with South Fork chinook, habitat productivity of North Fork chinook is extremely low.  Our restoration priorities emphasize placing logjams in the North Fork to restore chinook habitat in the near term, while replanting riparian areas to restore watershed processes over the longer term,” MacWilliams said.