Nisqually Tribe Restoring Important Chinook Refuge

EATONVILLE (August 24, 2004) – It’s always good to have a backup plan. For Chinook salmon in the Nisqually River, their backup plan consists of tributaries such as the Mashel River.

“If something catastrophic happened on the Nisqually River the chinook that would repopulate the Nisqually would come from major tributaries like the Mashel River,” said Jeanette Dorner, salmon restoration manager for the Nisqually Tribe. That’s why the Nisqually Tribe and the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group (SPSSEG) are restoring habitat on the Mashel this summer.

The tribe and the enhancement group are building logjams on the Mashel, an important feature for juvenile and migrating adult salmon. “Without trees in the river creating logjams, the river will become a hard place for salmon to live,” said Florian Leischner, salmon recovery biologist for the Nisqually Tribe. Logjams also trap spawning gravel and create pool habitat. “Logs build places for adult salmon to rest and juvenile salmon to feed and hide from predators,” said Leischner.

While all species of fish will benefit from the restoration, Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout will get the most out of the project, said Leischner. Chinook and coho spend much of their time during their juvenile life-stage rearing near logjams. Chinook salmon in the Nisqually River watershed are listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Logging near the Mashel River interrupted the natural process that used to form logjams. Typically, large conifers along the riverbank were washed into the riverbed during floods. Most conifers, though, have been cut down and hardwood deciduous trees, such as alders, have replaced them. “Alders decay in water relatively quickly; they don’t form logjams,” said Teresa Moon, project manager for the SPSSEG.

The tribe and group will also plant conifers along the Mashel to help restart the natural development of logjams. “It would be shortsighted of us to simply plop logs in the river and hope that it solves the problem,” said Leischner. “By planting trees along the river, we’re helping recreate what was here.”

The tribe and the enhancement group have also been surveying salmon habitat on the Mashel for the past two years so that they can track how the river and salmon react to restoration. “We’re going to take what we learn on the Mashel River and apply it to future restoration projects,” said Moon.

“If Chinook salmon are going to return to the Nisqually River in historic numbers, we need to make sure that there is a place for them to go,” said Dorner.


For more information, contact: Teresa Moon, project manager, SPSSEG, (360) 412-0808, [email protected]. Jeanette Dorner, salmon recovery manager, Nisqually Tribe, (360) 438-8687. Florian Leischner, salmon recovery biologist, Nisqually Tribe, (360) 438-8687. Emmett O’Connell, South Sound information officer, NWIFC, (360) 438-1181, [email protected]