NISQUALLY – This summer the Nisqually Indian Tribe is removing more than a mile of dike along the Nisqually River, allowing it to migrate naturally for the first time in a century.

Removal of the 6,670 feet of dike is the last major dike removal project in the Nisqually estuary and caps more than decade of estuary restoration. Since 1999, the Nisqually Tribe and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge have removed over 10,000 feet of dikes and restored more than 800 acres of estuary.

Because this is the last dike coming down from along the river, the mouth of the Nisqually may choose to move at some point. “Historically, the river was able to move across its wide flood plain here at the mouth,” said Florian Leischner, salmon restoration biologist for the tribe. “But, for the past century, it’s been held in one path by the dikes.”

In addition to removing the dikes, the tribe will also reconnect at least three tidal channels. “These channels are vital to salmon survival in the early part of their life cycle,” Leischner said.

The newly restored estuary is giving juvenile salmon from throughout Puget Sound a place to feed and grow before they migrate to the open ocean. “We’re tracking a lot of benefits for salmon in the estuary since it has been restored,” said David Troutt, natural resources director for the tribe. “Our studies show than the young salmon are benefiting. The salmon that are coming into the estuary are finding the food they need here.”

“Restored habitat means more salmon will return to the Nisqually,” said Georgianna Kautz, natural resources manager for the Nisqually Tribe. “The right to harvest salmon that the tribe reserved in our treaty is meaningless if we don’t have salmon to harvest and the habitat to support them.”

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For more information, contact: Florian Leischner, habitat biologist, Nisqually Indian Tribe, (360) 438-8687. David Troutt, natural resources director, Nisqually Indian Tribe, (360) 438-8687. Emmett O’Connell, information officer, NWIFC, (360) 528-4304, eoconnell@nwifc.org