Following the Skokomish River estuary restoration effort in 2010, the Skokomish Tribe has been closely monitoring the project site in hopes of seeing salmon using the new habitat for feeding and refuge.
Since August, natural resources staff members have been seining dozens of locations within the restored 349-acre area, as well as 330 acres of tidelands nearby that escaped development.
The project area includes 219 acres of tidelands (formerly Nalley Island) that was restored in 2010 and 130 acres that was restored in 2007, mainly through culvert and dike removal.
The tribe is looking for juvenile chinook, chum and coho salmon. The beach seining efforts have also included finding pacific herring, surf smelt, sculpins, pipefish, flounders, gunnels, anchovies and shrimp.
“The undeveloped tidelands are about the closest thing to a natural salt marsh in the Skokomish estuary,” said Matt Kowalski, the tribe’s steelhead biologist. “This area creates a great opportunity to compare what is living here versus what is coming back to the newly restored areas.”
In the late 1930s, a large portion of the Skokomish estuary was converted from a pristine estuary to the Nalley Farm. Dikes and ditches were used to drain the former tidelands, which had been rich with marine life. In 2007 and 2010, the tribe started restoring the tidelands to their natural state.
“The project’s goal to restore riverine and tidal hydrology within the treatment areas is expected to allow natural physical and biological process to restore the salt marshes wetlands,” said Alex Gouley, the tribe’s habitat manager.
The tribe hopes to start a third phase of restoration in 2012, which will include removing remaining smaller culverts and dikes by hand.
For more information, contact: Alex Gouley, Skokomish Tribe habitat manager, at (360) 877-5213 or [email protected]; Matt Kowalski, Skokomish Tribe steelhead biologist, at (360) 877-5213 or [email protected]; Tiffany Royal, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission information officer, at (360) 297-6546 or [email protected].