Migrating fish in the Sooes River on the Olympic coast are getting a helping hand from the Makah Tribe.
One day late last month in a span of seven hours, a Chinook helicopter delicately created 18 logjams on a 1.5-mile stretch of the river, reconnecting it with its floodplain and improving habitat by creating pools and eddies.
“Moving that amount of wood with machines on the ground would have damaged the stream channel and added egg-smothering sediment at a time when fall chinook are preparing to return,” said Jeff Shellberg, hydrologist for the Makah Tribe. “The helicopter allows us to do a lot of work in a small amount of time with the least amount of impact on the river channel.”
The Sooes spills into the ocean on the tribe’s reservation, but much of it winds through acres of non-tribal commercial timberlands.
Historically, much of the river channel off the reservation was bulldozed and cleaned of wood because it was thought to block salmon migration and destabilize the channel, contrary to scientific knowledge today.
Here’s a release from 2002 about the tribe opening up Sooes Creek to sports fishermen.