Monitoring and adaptive management of the Nisqually Delta after tidal marsh restoration

Blogging by Sayre Hodgson, Chris’s collaborator at the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s natural resources department.

Chris Ellings following up on a previous talk in 2009 at this symposium, now that there is more to report on the restoration.

Historic condition- was very diverse habitat, but like most P.S. deltas it was diked for agriculture 1904-1910.  Luckily industrial development in the delta was avoided.  USFWS created the Nisqually Nat. Wildlife Refuge and Nisqually Indian Tribe purchased a farm on the other side of the river.  Now 900 acres of tidal area have been restored. This is the largest restoration project of its kind north of San Francisco Bay, hopefully more will happen.

Largescale process based monitoring – process- hydrodynamics, sediment supply, structure- habitat development, and biological response.

Looked at hydrology in restored and undisturbed areas, and freshwater marsh behind the dike prior to Sept 2009.  After restoration there was an incomplete tidal prism as channels developed and full tidal prism develops over time.

Channel development- short term responses were looked at by comparing cross sections before and after.  There was up to 1 m of erosion in the channels, organic matter was carried out by the tides.  Restoration impacted channel shapes outside of the diked area as well. Deposition on the seaward side of the dike was redistributing.  There were big channel changes outside the diked area to accommodate the new tidal prism.

Vegetation development- seeds were available, colonization happened quickly.  2002 phase 1 restoration has really nice vegetation coverage occurring.  Newly restored Madrone slough (NNWR) coverage of plants decreased- this is freshwater marsh dying, being replaced by mud, without a lot of vegetation colonization occurring yet, is predominantly mud.  What’s needed is sediment to come down the river and be distributed in the restoration area to build the marsh back up.  With climate change and sea level rise we need to keep pace to maintain salt marsh habitat as well.

With USGS we developed a sediment budget for the Nisqually River.  Over 50% of the sediment is not going into salt marshes, it’s pushed into mudflats and offshore, due to lack of distributaries and reduced sediment budget (approx. 92% of sediment is trapped by the dams upstream).

Fish use the channels since right after restoration.  High fish densities seen in restored channels.

Invertebrates- the restored site is producing similar species composition to reference sites.

UW student Aaron David did a bioenergetics study, found fish feeding in restored areas grew faster than those from reference areas, but with more variability due to temperature spikes, etc.

Otoliths (bone like structures in ear) show increase in time rearing in the delta for Chinook.  Perhaps density dependence was alleviated.

Many partners were involved in this research (USGS, USFWS- NNWR, Ducks Unlimited, Nisqually River Council, etc.)


Squaxin Island Tribe Studies Pocket Estuaries

The tribe is looking for places where salmon and other fish live in the saltwater:

The Squaxin Island Tribe is studying tiny pocket estuaries in deep South Sound to find out how important they are to endangered juvenile chinook salmon. The research is being funded by the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

“Anywhere a small stream flows into Puget Sound, juvenile chinook salmon can find refuge,” said Scott Steltzner, research biologist for the tribe.

For the next three years tribal researchers will be collecting data on juvenile salmon usage in at least 10 pocket estuaries south of the Tacoma Narrow Bridge. “Dozens of creeks flow into deep South Sound, but we don’t know if many chinook use these estuaries,” Steltzner said. Puget Sound chinook are listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Deschutes sediment still hurting coho

A press release went out this afternoon, highlighting a recent study by the tribe on sediment in the Deschutes River:

A nearly 20 year old landslide is still hurting salmon according to a recently completed analysis of sediment in the Deschutes River by the Squaxin Island Tribe.

“The sediment from that landslide is still working its way through the river system,” said John Konovsky, environmental program manager for the Squaxin Island Tribe. “It has a relatively high proportion of minute dirt particles that continue to hinder coho reproduction.”

In January 1990, a huge storm hit the Deschutes River blocking an old culvert under a logging road. The resulting landslide sent tons of hillside sediment into Huckleberry Creek, a headwater tributary to the Deschutes.

2008 EPA Region 10 Tribal Leaders Summit


The Squaxin Island Tribe, in partnership with EPA Region 10, would like to extend an invitation to Tribal Leaders from Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to come together April 21 -24, 2008 in Shelton, Washington for the next Tribal Leaders Summit.  Following-up on discussions from the 2006 Summit at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, dialog will focus on emerging priority policy and strategic planning issues.

The theme of this year’s summit is Sustaining Tribal Cultures—tailoring programs to fit places. Charles Wilkinson, Moses Lasky Professor of Law at the University of Colorado, will be the keynote speaker and moderator on April 22nd.  He will provide an introduction to Indian trust doctrine and lead a policy discussion on innovation in government-to-government relations.  Wednesday afternoon, April 23rd will focus on climate change and Thursday, April 24th will include several technical sessions.

The agenda will be modified and updated as we get closer to the summit.
Click here for the current draft.

Click here

This year’s summit will take place at Kamilche, Washington located midway between Olympia and Shelton near the shores of South Puget Sound. Kamilche is located approximately 70 miles southwest of Seattle, on the Olympic Peninsula.  It is home to the Little Creek Casino Resort. The convergence of the Olympic Mountains, the waters of Puget Sound, and the Squaxin conference facilities provide an ideal setting for the summit. We hope you will attend!

Cultural & educational tours:

  • Boat tours of South Puget Sound and Squaxin Island
  • Squaxin Museum exhibits on fossil salmon and the Mud Bay Village archeological excavation
  • Field trips to nearby watershed restoration projects
  • Tours of Squaxin reclaimed water facility

Conference organizers are working with local transportation companies to arrange transport.  There will be scheduled airport pick-ups and transportation between the Red Lion Hotel and Little Creek Casino Resort. Stay tuned for updates, which will be posted to this website!

A block of rooms is reserved for Tribal Leaders Summit participants at both the Little Creek Casino Resort and the Red Lion Inn.  For both hotels, mention the Tribal Leaders Summit when booking rooms.


Little Creek Casino Resort
West 91 – State Route 108 Shelton, WA 98584

$70.00 + 10% tribal tax until 3/30/2008. Rooms become unblocked after this date.


Red Lion Inn
2300 Evergreen Park Dr SW
Olympia, WA 98502
(360) 943-4000

Booking number: 0000372900
$80.00/night for single or double
$113.00/night for triple or quad

For more information, contact:
Conference organizer: Brenda Nipp
Phone: 360-754-7644


Links to Local Information
Click here