Weyerhaeuser published a report in June 2009 in the Journal of American Water Resources Association (Volume 45, Number 3, Pages 793-808) detailing 30 years of turbidity data collected in the upper reaches of the Deschutes (WA) Watershed. To my knowledge, it is the longest water quality study on private forestlands in the Pacific Northwest.
In the mainstem river, the authors reported a consistent decline in winter turbidity levels over the 30 year period of record. They attributed the decline to improvements in road construction and maintenance practices over the years. The improvements were particularly extensive after the record January 1990 flood and the associated culvert failures and massive landslides in the Huckleberry Creek Basin and elsewhere. Trends in spring, summer and fall turbidity levels were not evident.
The documented improvements in turbidity do not seem to directly translate into improved spawning habitat. In 2004, Squaxin repeated a 1992 and 1995 study in the upper watershed of fine sediment in spawning gravel. Levels climbed from 12% to 15% to 17%. Spawning gravel with less than 12% fines is considered in good condition and over 17% is considered harmful to egg incubation and fry emergence.
While turbidity levels may be lower now, enough fine sediment is still moving downstream to increase impairment of salmon reproduction. Even with all the forest road improvements made by Weyerhaeuser, another Squaxin report concluded that as of 2003, 50% of the fine sediment entering the river in the upper watershed was still anthropogenic in nature.
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.
On Wednesday June 24th, 2009 the Squaxin Island Tribal Council approved the Annual Chinook/Coho/Chum Commercial Fishing Regulation package.
Changes to the 2009 Annual Fishing Regulations include:
Page 5&6—–’09 Annual Regulations/Chinook Regulations-
F. Legal Gear- defined Set Gillnet, Drift Gillnet and Beach Seine.
G. Illegal Gear- defined Purse Seine.
Page 3—–2009/2010 Coho and Chum Regulations
12. Beach Seines- requesting fishermen to release all unmarked/ wild coho (with attachment added with maps to help identify Wild vs Hatchery)
Copies of the 2009 Annual Commercial Fishing Regulation package and Emergency Fishing Regulations will be available at the Squaxin Natural Resources office or can be printed off from the Squaxin Island web page at:
2009 Fall Chinook
2009 Coho and Chum
If there are any questions or concerns regarding the salmon fisheries please contact Joseph Peters at 360-432-3813 or email at Jcpeters@squaxin.nsn.us.
Two new videos of the tribe’s shellfish growth tracking project are posted here.
Tribal biologists are numbering clams with tiny numbered red tags and by simply writing on them. Clam growth is typically measured by randomly surveying clams on a beach, but that technique isn’t very exact.
You can also hear about the project here.
Squaxin Island Tribe’s shellfish department will begin clam population surveys in Vaughn Bay, Pierce County this week.
The surveys will occur on privately owned tidelands within the bay. This area had previously been closed to commercial shellfish harvest due to water quality problems, but has recently been upgraded to approved status.
Approximately sixty parcels have been identified as possible clam beaches and will be surveyed by the Natural Resources Shellfish department this summer. The goal of the department is to maintain treaty harvest rights in this area and provide harvest opportunities for Squaxin Island tribal members.