Skokomish Tribe, Partners Enhance Tidelands with Logs, Rootwads

Columbia Helicopter crew member Jim Hindman rounds up the chokes that were used to lower the wood pieces by helicopter into the estuary.

Logs and rootwads were airlifted to the Skokomish River estuary by a dual-rotor cargo helicopter as part of the Skokomish Tribe’s large-scale effort to restore salmon habitat.

Woody debris had been missing from the Skokomish tidelands for the past 80 years after 200 acres of tidelands were diked and developed to create Nalley Island in the 1930s. Upstream activities such as logging, land conversion and dam building prevented woody material from floating down river to the estuary.

The lack of wood in the river and estuary prevented good salmon habitat from forming. Coho, chinook and chum salmon historically have used the tidelands before moving up river to spawn.

Based on aerial photos of the estuary from 1938, the tribe and Mason Conservation District mapped the best places to install logs and rootwads to re-create historic channels. Using a Chinook helicopter, more than 250 pieces of wood were placed within six hours.

“Not only do the logs create habitat for salmon, they help trap sediment which helps trap seeds, promoting re-vegetation and speeding up restoration efforts,” said Shannon Kirby, the tribe’s habitat biologist.

The wood was donated by Brady’s Trucking and Ridge Motorsports Park. This work was funded through a grant from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

The project is part of the long-term Skokomish estuary restoration effort that has been ongoing since 2007.