Restored, opened habitat leads to record run of coho from Goldsborough Creek

By Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission 

Scott Steltzner, biologist for the Squaxin Island Tribe, inspects a newly constructed logjam in 2013.
Scott Steltzner, biologist for the Squaxin Island Tribe, inspects a newly constructed logjam in 2013.




SHELTON – The combination of dam removal and aggressive habitat restoration has meant record runs of juvenile coho salmon in Goldsborough Creek for 2015.

This year’s run of 113,000 juvenile counted by the Squaxin Island Tribe continues a strong trend of increasing the numbers of juvenile coho leaving the Goldsborough watershed. The previous record was 61,000 coho.

Almost 15 year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers removed a dam on Goldsborough, opening over 30 miles of near intact habitat to salmon. Since then, the Squaxin Island Tribe has worked with community partners to further improve the habitat through restoration projects throughout the watershed.

“The lesson of Goldsborough Creek is pretty basic: If you give salmon habitat, they’re going to succeed,” said Andy Whitener, natural resources director for the Squaxin Island Tribe.


For example, a couple of years ago, the tribe worked with the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group, Simpson Lumber, the Green Diamond Resource Company and Miles Sand and Gravel to restore habitat along the creek. The project partners added wood structures to the stream, which give both juvenile and adult salmon places to feed and hide.

A year earlier, the Tribe and the enhancement group replaced undersized culverts just upstream from the old dam site that were blocking a tributary to Goldsborough. The project opened nearly a mile of new spawning and rearing habitat that had not seen salmon in over 100 years.

“These projects, coupled with dam removal, reversed a negative trend for coho on Goldsborough,” Whitener said.

The tribe has operated at least one smolt trap on the creek since dam removal to count out-going salmon migrants. Smolt traps are safe and effective devices for counting young fish. Smolt comes from the word “smoltification” which is the term used to describe the physiological changes that young salmon undergo while in freshwater, just before migrating downstream and entering saltwater.

“By using the trap every year, we’re getting a great picture of the benefits salmon see from good habitat,” said Daniel Kuntz, fisheries biologist for the tribe.

Most importantly to coho salmon, the removal of the dam opened up access to a series of wetlands where juvenile salmon could rear. Unlike most other species of salmon, coho spend an additional year in freshwater before heading out to sea.

The Tribe along with WDFW also conducts yearly adult spawning surveys on Goldsborough Creek above the former dam site. “We get a good look at these salmon at both ends of their life-cycle – as they leave as juveniles and as their returning as spawning adults,” Kuntz said.

“The success salmon have seen since we’ve begun restoring the watershed shows directly how much salmon really do depend on habitat,” said Whitener. “

Five Pacific Northwest Tribes Back Habitat Restoration Plan for Portland Harbor Superfund Site

via FacebookCaption: Portland Harbor Superfund Site, Portland, Oregon.
via Facebook
Caption: Portland Harbor Superfund Site, Portland, Oregon.
Terri Hansen, Indian Country Today


After lingering for 14 years as the largest Superfund site in Oregon, and affecting the traditional gathering and ceremonial grounds of area tribes for decades, the first restoration project for the Portland Superfund Site has been greenlighted by five tribes on the Portland Harbor Natural Resource Trustee Council (Trustee Council).

“The Nez Perce Tribe (in Lapwai, Idaho), and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Umatilla, Siletz, and Grand Ronde (in Oregon) are on board,” Nez Perce spokesperson Erin Madden told Indian Country Today Media Network.

The Alder Creek restoration project is a 52-acre refuge for native fish and wildlife near the Willamette’s Sauvie Island, in Portland, Oregon. Wapato Island, as it is known locally, has been a traditional fishing, hunting and gathering area for tribes for more than 10,000 years.

But the once abundant habitat is now rare in this stretch of the river, Madden said. Decades of manufacturing waste fouled the final 12 miles of the Willamette River where it runs through the city of Portland until it streams into the Columbia River, 100 miles upstream from the Pacific Ocean. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added the 12-mile site to the Superfund priority list in 2000.

Lurking in the river’s sediment is a nasty cocktail of high levels of the banned pesticide DDT, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals, tar deposits, solvents, petroleum byproducts, and phthalates known to interfere with the body’s hormones and cause developmental problems—left by decades of manufacturing processes, all of which pose risks to the water, natural resources, wildlife and humans.

The EPA and the tribes feeling the impact of the contamination entered into a memorandum of understanding to ensure that tribal government representatives have a seat at the table.

Related: Oregon Tribes Await Superfund Attention for Portland Harbor Site

The Yakama Nation in Washington State withdrew from the Trustee Council in 2009 over concerns that remediation of damages to natural resources would not extend to the injury and damages to natural resources in the lower Columbia River, and liability of the potentially responsible parties for damages, Yakama Nation public information officer Rose Longoria said.

Related: Yakama Nation Challenges Willamette River Polluters to Clean and Protect Lower Columbia River

The new project, designed to benefit fish and wildlife affected by contamination at the site, will include removing buildings and fill from the floodplain, reshaping the riverbanks, and planting native trees and shrubs. This project is the first of five remediation and restoration projects in various planning stages.

“It’s a pretty major milestone,” Madden said. “It’s the culmination of many years of work by the Nez Perce and the other tribes, and state and federal partners on the Trustee Council.”



Klamath Youth Program Melding Science and Traditional Knowledge Wins National Award

U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceService biologists provide tribal youth in northern California and southern Oregon with a unique opportunity to combine their cultural knowledge about the local ecology with the high-tech capabilities of NASA, the Service and other federal agencies.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Service biologists provide tribal youth in northern California and southern Oregon with a unique opportunity to combine their cultural knowledge about the local ecology with the high-tech capabilities of NASA, the Service and other federal agencies.

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

A unique collaboration between a Klamath youth leadership development program and U.S. government researchers has won the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Partners in Conservation award for its use of traditional knowledge in conjunction with modern science.

The Klamath Tribal Leadership Development for Integrative Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge Program, operating in northern California and southern Oregon, was one of just four recipients working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Klamath Tribes said in a media release. The partnership was one of 20 recipients overall out of groups working with various federal agencies on environmental conservation and won for its work in habitat restoration and the implications for fisheries management.

The cornerstone was the Klamath tribal youth program, started last summer to connect scientists and college students to Klamath Basin restoration projects. Juxtaposing traditional knowledge and modern science, youths from the Yurok Tribe, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Quartz Valley Indian Reservation and Klamath Tribes worked with scientists from NASA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Forest Service for 10 weeks in the Klamath Tribal Leadership Development Program for Integrative Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Together the partners restored habitat, developed models and collected data from two Klamath watershed tributaries, the Sycan River in Oregon and Shasta Big Springs Creek in California, that support tribal fisheries, the Klamath said in the statement.

The U.S. Department of the Interior noted the unique melding of tribal cultural knowledge with today’s technology that got the program chosen out of the 14 partnerships that were nominated for the award by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Students worked first with tribal elders to gather ancestral knowledge of the region’s lands and waterways, then applied that knowledge to programs whose goal is to restore and manage native fish populations in the Klamath Basin. At the same time, the program gave tribal youth job skills, setting them up as future conservation leaders even as they contributed to present-day management of fish species that are important to indigenous culture and the ecology, the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a release.

“This partnership has the promise to result in some of the most advanced approaches to fisheries management in the country and will help prepare tribal youth for future careers in conservation,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said. “To date, these agencies have brought their collective resources and expertise with established and emerging technologies and have applied these to this collaborative effort, including remote sensing and unmanned aircraft systems. These technologies hold promise for improving our knowledge base and conservation effectiveness through energy efficient, cost-effective approaches to data collection with less impact on our ecosystems.”

Other partners involved were the Nature Conservancy, Humboldt State University, Southern Oregon University and the Oregon Institute of Technology, the Klamath statement said.

“The Department of the Interior is proud to recognize the accomplishments of those who are innovating and collaborating in ways that address today’s complex conservation and stewardship challenges,” said Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who handed out the awards on January 16. “These partnerships represent the gold standard for how Interior is doing business across the nation to power our future, strengthen tribal nations, conserve and enhance America’s great outdoors and engage the next generation.”

Proud honorees. (Photo: Courtesy Klamath Tribes)
Proud honorees. (Photo: Courtesy Klamath Tribes)