SKOKOMISH – A river mile might not seem like a lot to consider after the hundreds of miles that salmon travel to get back to their home rivers. For the Skokomish Tribe, restoring approximately one mile within the upper watershed of South Fork Skokomish River will help improve fish habitat for salmon and other listed fish.

“Installing formidable wood structure complexes in the river and riparian zone and planting native vegetation in this small stretch will improve spawning and rearing habitat for Steelhead, bull trout, coho and chinook, ” said Alex Gouley, the tribe’s habitat resource manager. “The area  is open and exposed; salmon need deep pools, cover and shade associated with streams reaches that have abundant vegetation and woody debris, channel depth and complexity.”

Puget Sound Ccinook, steelhead, and bull trout are listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.

This particular stretch of the South Fork has been heavily impacted by past land management activities including logging and wood debris removal in preparation for a proposed dam project in the 1950s that was abandoned prior to initiation of construction. Past management of the watershed has had a huge effect on habitat.

As a result, the tribe has seen the river channel shift or widen and become shallow because of degraded conditions. Woody debris and native vegetation are needed to keep riverbanks stable. When the river runs high, some exposed gravel bars release higher incremental amounts of sediment downstream and into the mainstem of the Skokomish River. The riparian and landscape alterations may have contributed to reduced fish access though the South Fork gorge by changing the timing and duration of river flows.

“This work will also complement the Skokomish Tribes estuary restoration that is taking place at the delta,” said Marc McHenry, a fish biologist with the Olympic National Forest.

The tribe, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, will construct approximately 30 formidable wood structure complexes in the stream channel and plant native vegetation on 12 acres of floodplain area to help stabilize the river and provide proper spawning and rearing areas.

“This is a small section of river but benefits to the salmon will pay off in the long run,” Gouley said. “Working with the U.S. Forest Service allows us opportunities to take care of important restoration work together that we couldn’t have done as individual entities.”

Funding for the project came from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The U.S. Forest Service is donating wood for the formidable wood structure complexes.

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For more information, contact Alex Gouley, Skokomish Tribe habitat resource manager, at (360) 877-2110 or agouley@skokomish.org; Marc McHenry, Olympic National Forest fish biologist at 360-765-2231 or mmchenry@fs.fed.us; or Tiffany Royal, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission information officer, at (360) 297-6546 or troyal@nwifc.org.