Tribe appeals decision on Johns Creek

From the press release:

The Squaxin Island Tribe is appealing to Gov. Chris Gregoire the decision by the state Department of Ecology to reject a petition to protect Johns Creek. ”Ecology’s inaction does further harm to our treaty-based fisheries,” said Andy Whitener, natural resources director for the Tribe. “Salmon recovery should not have to bear a disproportionate share of the fallout from tough economic times.”

This is the second time in two years that Ecology has rejected the Tribe’s request to protect Johns Creek, citing the need for study on the connection between ground and surface water in the Johns Creek watershed. The Tribe’s petitions were based on a state law that closes a watershed to new well drilling activity if not enough information exists to establish that water is legally available.

If the Gov. Gregoire is serious about protecting the waters of Puget Sound, then she will direct Ecology to act. “Ecology’s excuse is the lack of resources. It takes a commitment to their responsibilities, not money, to close the basin,” said Kevin Lyon, the Tribe’s attorney. “The rule is simple: if you lack information, you don’t take water – especially when minimum flows are not being met.

Read more here.

Phil Anderson Chosen As Leader of WDFW

From Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Website:

Anderson Good Choice to lead WDFW

The treaty tribes of western Washington look forward to continuing to work with Phil Anderson as director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Anderson was named the department’s permanent director Saturday by the nine-member commission….(read more at NWIFC website).

Deschutes Watershed Tour


I toured the Deschutes Watershed on June 4th with 17 other members of the Deschutes Advisory Group.  The group is charged with implementing measures to address water quality issues identified in the DOE TMDL technical report.


One highlight of the tour was stopping at the mouth of Huckleberry Creek not far downstream from the upper Deschutes falls.  Prior to a 1990 rain storm and subsequent landslide on Weyerhaeuser property, about 10% of all returning coho in the Deschutes River system spawned in Huckleberry Creek.

We spoke with Peter Schmid, president of the local homeowners association.  He described how sediment (likely still from the 1990 landslide) continues to aggrade the Huckleberry channel.  He said the channel is now at least three feet shallower than it used to be.  He asserted that was the cause of the ongoing flooding issues the community faces.  When asked about salmon, Peter reported that he has seen none in the last couple years–not in Huckleberry Creek and not in front of his house in the mainstem Deschutes River.


At another stop in Pioneer Park, we saw first hand what a river likes to do.  A new bend in the stream channel formed during last winter’s storms.   It took out a portion of the gravel path leading west from the parking lot near the artesian well.   It will be interesting to see how tolerant the City of Tumwater and park users will be to letting a river be a river.  On a very hot June 4th, the inner tubers at least seemed to relish the new twist in the stream channel.

New Weather Station for Oakland Bay

The Natural Resources Department at the Squaxin Island Tribe has been a pioneer in the scientific investigation of water pollution in Oakland Bay.  One of our key findings is that windy conditions stir up bacteria laden sediment at the upper end of the bay and those bacteria can close down shellfish harvest.

We have always been hampered by the lack of weather stations in the area to get more accurate wind data.  Currently the data comes from Shelton Airport.  To partially solve the problem, Natural Resources developed a partnership with Pioneer School to install a King 5 SchoolNet Weather Station.  The proposal received funding funding from the Squaxin Island Tribe’s 1% commission and the weather station has been installed.

It can be viewed at  John Konovsky

2009 Deschutes Flood

Lower Deschutes Falls on January 8, 2009

The January Deschutes flood has some similarities and differences with the flood of record on January 9, 1990.  The total volumes of water moving through the system in 24 hours were similar, but the peaks and durations of the flood flows were quite distinct.

In 1990, the peak flow at Rainier was much higher (9,600 cfs) but the duration was shorter.  In 2009, the peak was lower (~6,850 cfs) but lasted longer.  The net result is the similarity in water volumes–the mean daily storm flow was 6,000 cfs in 1990 and ~5,600 cfs in 2009.

The 1990 storm was a very intense event that dumped alot of water over a relatively small area in a short period of time.  The situation was exacerbated by the inability of several old wooden culverts in the upper watershed to adequately pass the water.  When they eventually gave away, it sent a torrent of water down the valley at resulted in the highest peak flow in the nearly 60 years of record.

The 2009 storm was much more widespread and was more of a rain on snow event that lasted for a much longer period of time resulting in a longer duration of high water.  When the waters recede, we will survey the damage to fish and wildlife habitat.  Fisheries are still suffering from the sediment that entered the river in the 1990 storm.

Why Streamside Trees Help Salmon

Native trees and shrubs along stream corridors (riparian areas) are important for healthy salmon runs.

The Squaxin Island Tribe’s Natural Resources Department is doing what it can to restore riparian areas in order to protect salmon runs and create habitat for wildlife. In February of 2007 the Natural Resources Department implemented a stream bank restoration project on Skookum Creek next to a series of engineered log jams that were implemented by the Tribe as part of an in-stream restoration project. Approximately 1,500 live willow and dogwood stakes were planted in an effort to stabilize the bank and provide shade to the stream.

2007 Skookum Creek Riparian Restoration Project

2007 Skookum Creek Riparian Restoration Project

In March of 2007 The Department implemented a riparian restoration project along Skookum Creek between river miles 1-2. Over 2,000 native trees and shrubs were planted and an irrigation system was installed in order to increase survival rates. Survival rates the first year were 97 percent!

In February of 2008 The Department planted 400 native shrubs across from the 2007 stream bank restoration project site on Skookum Creek to continue restoration efforts along the Creek adjacent to the engineered log jams that were installed.

Skookum Creek Bank Restoration

Skookum Creek Bank Restoration

This month The Department has installed native shrubs at all the mentioned project sites as supplemental plantings to offset mortalities and in order to increase plant density and diversity.

Streamside vegetation provides shade, cover, and nutrient input. Additionally, trees eventually will contribute to wood recruitment in streams which is important for forming log jams, creating stream complexity and providing habitat for juvenile fish. As the wood ages and decomposes it also provides habitat for macro invertebrates (aquatic bugs) which is food for juvenile salmon and resident trout species. Streamside vegetation also provides bank stability and hinders sediment input which can be detrimental to salmon eggs in the gravel.

Riparian areas are also important to many other stream adjacent species such as otter, beaver, mink, and songbirds that rely on the stream for food and shelter. Additionally, intact riparian areas are important for many other species such as deer and elk as they utilize these green belts to migrate.

Log jams protect chum during recent floods

The log jams the Squaxin Island Tribe built over the last few years in Skookum Creek provided a critical refuge for chum heading upstream to spawn during the recent floods.  When flows in Skookum Creek reached 750 cfs on Wednesday afternoon (11/12/08), a number of chum like the one visible in this picture rested in the calm water behind some of the logs placed higher up in the floodplain.  Unfortunately, once the fish move upstream of these log jams, they will find far fewer places to rest on their final ~5 mile swim.

Squaxin-sponsored Gage on Goldsborough Peaked

The Squaxin Island Tribe pays USGS to operate a stream flow gage on Goldsborough Creek near downtown Shelton (see:,00065).  The stream flow from the heavy rains yesterday and today have peaked at around 900 cfs.  That qualifies as a modest flood in the Goldsborough watershed.

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.