Slower waters help healthy salmon

(August 29, 2007) – Beneath the bridge at Railroad Bridge Park in Sequim, the rapid waters of the Dungeness River rush toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In the fall, salmon fight the current as they come back to their home river to spawn.

Like a person trying to swim against a current, it’s tough for salmon, especially in a river with the energy of the Dungeness. The river is a straight shot from the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and is considered a very fast river.

To help the salmon make it home, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is slowing the waters by installing five engineered logjams upstream of the park.

Each jam has 40 35-foot-long conifer logs buried into the riverbed like a tic-tac-toe board. The top of the jams will be planted with vegetation to create a small forested island.

The purpose of the system is to help stabilize the riverbed and create a meandering water channel. This will slow the stream flow and establish proper fish habitat on each side of each jam, such as pools of water for juveniles in which to feed and hide on the upstream side, and suitable-sized gravel for spawning on the downstream side, said Byron Rot, Jamestown S’Kallam Tribe habitat program manager.

Forests play an important role in helping create fish habitat. In the past 150 years, the forest along the river bank has been harvested at least twice. The existing cotton woods and alders on the river bank are not ideal for logjams when they fall into the river; conifers are preferred. The trees planted on these logjams will eventually grow to a size that when they fall into the river, they will form fish habitat.

The fish won’t be the only ones to benefit from the slowed river; residents and structures on the river bank downstream will have a reduced risk of bank erosion during high water events also, Rot said.

There will be a public presentation of the project at the park the week of September 3. Call Rot at (360) 681-4615 for more details.

This project is funded by the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The work, which started in August, is expected to be completed by early October.


For more information
: contact Byron Rot, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe habitat program manager, at (360) 681-4615 or [email protected]; or Tiffany Royal, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission information officer, at (360) 297-6546 or [email protected].