Lummi Nation Program Restores Salmon Habitat

by Jim Hansen

Since January 2014, Whatcom Watch, has been rerunning articles from issues printed 20 years ago. The below article appeared in the February 1999 issue of Whatcom Watch.

During 1998, efforts on multiple fronts were carried out to continue restoration of fish habitat in the Nooksack Watershed. The Lummi Natural Resources staff worked on a variety of sites. The following is a summary of their efforts during the past year. Dislocated fisheries and timber workers were trained in the skills necessary to carry out scientific measurements and project implementation.

 Large woody debris was placed in 1,100 feet of Hutchinson Creek in order to restore pool and hiding habitat for fish. Hutchinson Creek drains to the Acme reach of the South Fork at Acme.

 Japanese knotweed is a noxious weed that displaces and overwhelms native vegetation. A pilot project covering 185 acres was carried out to test the cost effectiveness of manual removal. It was not cost effective, since the cost to remove it manually was three times the cost of the property. A Jobs-in-the-Woods grant will fund a joint project with the Department of Natural Resources to evaluate chemical treatment.

 Riparian areas along Hutchinson Creek, Saxon Creek (running through the old Nesset Farm) and North Fork at Maple Falls were improved. Thirty-six acres received bud capping and fabric mulch. Bud capping consists of placing a waterproof sheet of paper around the tree in such a way that the central leader is protected from browsing deer and is free to grow up.

Stands of trees were thinned and conifers were interplanted with the pre-exisiting alders, cottonwoods and maples. This creates shade and grows trees for woody debris contributions to the streams.

Conifers are particularly good for creating woody debris because they take a long time to rot and grow quite tall.

 Eighty-two riparian plots were surveyed. The Lummi crew was trained and collected monitoring data on seedling survival and growth in the riparian project area. Data was gathered on how fast the vegetation is growing, how fast the competing vegetation is growing, the soil types, and the landforms. Students from the University of Washington Center for Streamside Studies are analyzing the data. The research results will be important to persons working in restoration projects all along the West CXoast.

One hundred and seventeen acres of riparian area were improved. Competing vegetation was brushed back and browsing protection for the planted conifers was installed.

 The Lummi River wetlands training and assessment project lasting three weeks was completed. A six-person Lummi crew was trained in surveying and provided baseline data for the Nooksack Estuary recovery project.

 A riparian buffer was re-established on four acres along Maple Creek. The Lummi crew restored native vegetation and shade to a spawning index stream degraded by agricultural practices.

An index stream is chosen by the Department of Fish and Wildlife as representative of similar streams in the area. By surveying index streams, it is possible to generalize about other streams in the area without actually surveying each one.

Agricultural practices that degrade streams include cutting the trees and native vegetation along the stream, removing wood from the stream, animals knocking down the streambanks, and animal wastes in the stream.

Streams may have been altered to make steep-sided ditches that do not meander. When this is done, the stream can hold less water, and landslides and erosion are more likely to occur. Streams with broadly sloping sides are better able to retain flood water.

 Maintenance on the four-acre Maple Creek stream restoration project was completed. Competing grass was cut back and protection against girdling by rodents and protection against deer and elk was installed.

 Straw mulch and grass seed were used to revegetate three and a half acres of the road abandonment project and eroding cutbanks near Arlecho Creek.

Six miles of road were winterized. Large water bars (dips) were cut across the road where water would normally run through a culvert under the road. If the culvert becomes blocked during the winter, the water will drain across the road and continue on in the normal drainage pattern. The area contains 450 acres of old growth forest, and 1,800 acres of second growth. Arlecho Creek is especially important because it provides clean water to the nearby fish hatchery.

 Two miles of orphan road near Skookum Creek were storm proofed. Skookum Creek feeds into the South Fork at Saxon Bridge. Logging roads that went into disuse before 1974 are no one´s responsibility. Thus they are termed orphans. But the culverts, road fill, and roadbeds can create dangers of landslides and flooding.

Manual labor was used to dig ditches across abandoned logging roads to prevent landslides. The ditches, two feet deep, carry water across the road and prevent water from pooling on the road and saturating the soil.

 A Lummi crew was trained at Washington Trout´s Culvert College and worked on a joint project under the direction of the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association. They surveyed culverts for fish passage as part of a watershed wide effort. Culverts which block fish passage are candidates for replacement. Six stream drainages and seventy-one culverts were surveyed.

• Site preparation was completed for the Schell Creek stream restoration project. The Lummi crew cut and piled blackberry brush, and removed debris from the site near the Lummi Minimart. Two hundred yards of concrete were torn up and recycled from the old farm site. The stream will be completely restored in 1999 with help from the Lummi Tribal school and the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association.

• The installation of historic scale log jams along the South Fork of the Nooksack River began. Lummi Natural Resources´ staff performed pebble counts. Every few feet they measured the pebble size. After the winter, they will be able to measure again and determine how much movement of gravel occurred. They also put metal tags on large woody debris in the river. After the winter they will determine what has moved and what is new. Fifty trees were acquired and stockpiled in anticipation of year 2000 construction of log jams.

Jim Hansen was coordinator of the Lummi Natural Resources Restoration Program when this article was written.

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