Nisqually Tribe restores salmon habitat on the Mashel River

This summer the Nisqually Tribe and a local nonprofit organization are restoring salmon habitat on the Mashel River.

The tribe and the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group will build 12 logjams and other habitat features on property owned in part by the Nisqually Land Trust and the town of Eatonville. The partners will also dig a new side channel and plant a small streamside forest.

“This is only the most recent project to address limited salmon habitat on the Mashel River,” said David Troutt, natural resources director for the Nisqually Tribe.

A decade ago the tribe built a series of logjams to replace a rock berm protecting Eatonville’s Smallwood Park from the river. A few years later, the tribe constructed another series of logjams downstream from the park.

The Mashel River is one of only two tributaries to the Nisqually River where chinook salmon spawn. Nisqually River chinook are part of a larger population listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Logjams are important river features for salmon at all life stages because they create good habitat in which fish can spawn, feed and rest. These new logjams will help counteract the legacy of historic logging practices and development in the watershed.

“The fewer trees there are along the shoreline, the more the river becomes incised, leading to a loss of shade, pool habitat and spawning gravel for salmon,” said Lance Winecka, executive director of the enhancement group. “Without these key habitat types, salmon do not have what they need to survive. Logjams will provide habitat and set the river on the right path again.”

The partners expect results similar to those seen in other cooperative logjam projects.

“We’ve seen direct evidence that the logjams we’ve built in the last decade boost juvenile salmon populations,” Troutt said. “Our biologists found thousands of salmon in the restored sections of the Mashel, more than double than before the logjams. These fish are finding the river a much better place to be now.”

“Water is life – for us and the salmon,” said Farron McCloud, Nisqually tribal chairman. “We are doing whatever we can to restore the salmon’s home so our children and generations to come will have salmon and enough water.”

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