Archive for May, 2009

Visiting Tulalip restoration sites

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

The final session of the 2009 Tribal Habitat Conference consisted of a field trip to two of the Tulalip Tribes’ restoration projects.

Participants in the Tribal Habitat Conference view a culvert replacement project on Coho Creek

Participants in the Tribal Habitat Conference view a culvert replacement project on Coho Creek

The Coho Creek restoration began in 2000, with the replacement of a perched culvert. No salmon had been using the creek, but after the culvert was replaced, chum salmon were seen spawning in the ditches.

There was no suitable spawning habitat, no gravel, so the salmon spawned in the sand.

“We haven’t been supplementing  it,” said Kurt Nelson, senior stream ecologist for Tulalip. “The salmon we’re seeing are strays that are recolonizing the area.”

Between 2000 and 2006, 18 culverts were removed or replaced, 1,000 feet of spawning gravel added, 1/2 acre forested pond constructed, ditch flow rerouted and five log weirs constructed. Since then, 2,000 feet of new stream channel was created, including 90 pieces of wood and about 900 cubic yards of spawning material.

Eventually the Coho Creek restoration project will restore and enhance 6,000 feet of stream channel, 8 acres of riparian forest and improve connectivity to adjacent forest communities. The project also will restore natural hydrologic connection and functions to sub-basins forest, wetland and streams.

The Qwuloolt Estuary project is in the planning and permitting phase. The restoration work will involve removing levee along Ebey Slough, installing a setback levee to protect adjacent properties located in the floodplain, filling ditches, excavating stream and tidal channels, and conducting native riparian planting.

The project will restore historic tidal processes and a functioning estuary intertidal marsh system to 350 acres of isolated floodplain within the lower Snohomish River estuary and improve fish access to 16 miles of upstream habitat.

Restoration biologist Maria Calvi describes the Tulalip Tribes plan to restore tidal flow to the Qwuloolt estuary

Restoration biologist Maria Calvi describes the Tulalip Tribes plan to restore tidal flow to the Qwuloolt estuary

Tribal water quality database training

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

NWIFC’s SSHIAP/Water quality GIS analyst Ron McFarlane is giving a lecture to introduce a standardized database to assist tribes in transferring existing water quality data into a common format.

Some of the key features are:

  • The database resides at the tribe (not at the commission).
  • The structure is the same at each tribe, which is more cost-effective for the creation of tools and tech support.
  • Users are able to enter data, import data, validate key fields and load data from other sources (such as EPA).
  • Users can export data in XML format to EPA.
  • Database is updateable.

Technical workshop: SSHIAP Hydro

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

This morning, Tyson Waldo, SSHIAP North Sound Area Biologist with NWIFC, is leading a technical workshop about the SSHIAP Hydro regional geodatabase.

SSHIAP (Salmon and Steelhead Habitat Inventory and Assessment Program) Hydro is a topologically integrated stream habitat, fish distribution and catchment framework for linear network analysis and aerial watershed assessment.

It allows researchers to ask a question, such as “What is the estimated 100-year peak flow for Illabot Creek in the Skagit basin?”


  • Collaborate with tribal hydrologists to get information to put into database.
  • Create a watershed from the point of interest.
  • Collect precipitation information to see mean precipitation across watershed.
  • Build model builder tool.
  • Run regression equation through model builder.

Using an ArcGIS interface, researchers can put in a regression equation and come up with a drainage area for the watershed.

This gives researchers the tools that can be shared with everyone else using SSHIAP Hydro.


  • Makes it easy for users to load data for individual storage.
  • Provides data platform for tribes to organize and share information.
  • Regional for western Washington.


  • Working to integrate SSHIAP Hydro.
  • Working with tribes individually.
  • Planning to integrate with national hydrography dataset
  • Transitioning from desktop GIS to web-distributed database

Waldo is leading participants step-by-step through loading the data system, setting it up, entering data, and using the data system for analysis.

Making the cultural connection

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Speaking about his role as a tribal liaison for the departments of Ecology and Transportation, NWIFC’s Darrell Phare stressed the importance of taking tribal culture into consideration.

We need to consistently consult with the cultural arm of the tribes. A lot of times the call goes out to the natural resources or the fisheries arm. This is the problem of departmentalization.

The legends and the stories that have been told to all of our tribes through our oral tradition — that’s how it’s passed on and it’s a very magical thing. The simple stories come back to you and you can relate to those things. It has to do with cultivating your intuition.

That intuition that our tribal leaders have has saved us in a lot of situations. That magic we need to rediscover and tap into.

Opening our minds to those tools that tribes have is very valuable in terms of this larger work that we do. Also, keeping in mind that whole need to carry this work forward and do things in such a way that we know when we drop out of it it’s not going to drop. It’s going to continue on and magically that’s happened.

We said goodbye to one of those warriors last week. (Tulalip elder Bernie Kai-Kai Gobin) In terms of just moving forward, we need to continue cultivating these relationships and developing this trust. There are many facets to this work that have to happen, the more deliberate we make it the more consistent and long-lasting it will be.

Deb Lekanoff, policy analyst for the Swinomish Tribe
, commended the conference participants for ensuring the next seven generations will be able to fish.

Indigenous people want something very simple — so my daughter is able to carry a wild fish off the beach that she harvested, to cut the fish in her traditional ways and pass that on to my granddaughter.

Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby has been told that he is an environmental radicalist. Our values are to err on the side of conservation. Let’s make the mistake of being too protective. Let’s make the mistake of having too many fish to harvest. Can we make the mistake of having water that is too clean to drink or air that is too clean to breathe?

We are only beginning to know the cost of repairing a broken environment.

SRSC’s Eric Beamer
shared his thoughts on traditional ecological knowledge and salmon management.

We have a unique opportunity as tribal natural resources staff. There’s a really short chain between technicians in the field to the person that’s talking to the governor.

Our policy people don’t turn over as often as the people in the agencies.

It’s important to factor in:

  • Perspective (we usually have a perspective but often it’s limited)
  • Context
  • Precaution (outside of tribal cultures, we don’t really add precautions. We want to know how close can we get before there’s an impact.)

Examples of using the wrong context:

  • Hatchery fish are “better than natural,” and will solve habitat/harvest problems.
  • Estuaries are a hazardous places and we need to get fish through them so they’re not preyed upon. (Doesn’t take into account different life history types).
  • Removing woody debris helps fish access to spawning areas, not understanding that woody debris is holding stream together.

It’s not about our knowledge, it’s about our values.

As tribal technical staff, we can be the voice of precaution.

Monitoring is key to successful restoration and enhancement

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

The afternoon speakers discussed efforts to monitor habitat projects.

Lummi Nation geomorphologist Michael Maudlin
spoke about monitoring large woody debris restoration on the South Fork Nooksack River. Lummi has monitored the effectiveness of its logjam projects in the South Fork since 2001. One of the challenges is separating the reach-scale effects of the logjams from changes that would have occurred without restoration. More funding is needed for monitoring.

Tulalip Tribes wildlife manager Mike Sevigny
described the success of some wildlife meadows that were planted with the goal of providing high-quality, nutritious forage 365 days a year.

Before the tribes had a casino, one of the main sources of revenue was forestry. Now, the wildlife department is funded entirely by the tribe, including casino revenue.

The Tulalip wildlife department used hydroseeding, which increases germination, reduces erosion and holds in moisture. Read more about the meadows on page 5 of our magazine.

Hydroseeding increases germination, reduces erosion and holds in moisture.

The meadows have flourished even more than Sevigny expected. Night vision cameras have shown deer foraging after dark.

As soon as we get that first sprout germinating in there, they’re eating everything. Even after last winter’s heavy snowfall, deer had no problem finding food under the snow.

We definitely achieved our goal of providing a lot of food during the lean times.

Tackling nearshore habitat and forest practices

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

After lunch, speakers from the Skagit River System Cooperative, the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe and Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission discussed the nearshore environment and forest practices.

Eric Beamer, research director for SRSC (the natural resources arm of the Swinomish and Sauk-Suiattle tribes) described the importance of pocket estuaries in studying the life history of chinook. Read more about Beamer’s research here.

Chinook salmon is the diversity king.

We’re managing for salmon, but there’s a lot more out there than salmon. Smelt, shiner perch — they’re all important to nearshore habitat.

SRSC restoration director Steve Hinton
described some of the cooperative’s restoration projects in the nearshore enviroment. Among these are Crescent Harbor, which is a partnership with the U.S. Navy, and Turner’s Bay.

In the forestry session, Curt Veldhuisen, TFW program director for SRSC, talked about the importance of headwater streams:

Our society has very much bought into the idea that fish habitat has to be protected. Why should fish managers care about headwater streams, which are by definition, not fish bearing?

For every mile of fish habitat there are many miles of headwater streams that lead into fish-bearing streams. Headwater streams influence stream temperature, sediment, food resources, nutrients and woody debris in fish-bearing streams.

The current method of classifying headwater streams, based on whether a stream is perennial or seasonal, is not effective, he said. He recommended a return to the channel width method of classification.

Channel width is not a bad place to go back to, you can recognize it 12 months of the year. Two people can agree on channel width. It reflects channel discharge and drives wood size.

Whatever the method, it has to protect watershed functions… and be implementable … and be acceptable to other caucuses

It’s not going to happen any time soon but I think it’s worth the effort.

Nancy Sturhan, forest practices coordinator for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, discussed the importance of having a Forests and Fish Report agenda and monitoring strategy.

Setting a work agenda allows tribes to be pro-active, rather than react to what other people are doing.

What if no one spent money on conservation without first checking with the tribes about where that would make the greatest difference to fish?

Sturhan suggests looking back at some of the forgotten monitoring programs that had a big initial investment and still have value to be realized. These include ambient monitoring and watershed analysis, where old sites could be revisited and old data compared to new.

Or, tribes could develop their own watershed analysis to produce opportunities not prescriptions.

Skokomish chairman on Cushman Dam settlement

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Skokomish Chairman Joseph Pavel spoke during lunch about the Cushman Dam settlement with the city of Tacoma. Read a column about the settlement on page 4 of our magazine.

The tribe’s appeal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, protesting the relicensing of the dams sat there for 11 years.

It took an incredible amount of time to get other agencies involved.

At the time the only one who was there was the tribe. The Skokomish Tribe. There was no National Marine Fisheries Service. There was no Park Service. There was no Department of Fish and Wildlife. There was no Department of Ecology.

We had to take a cattle prod to some of these agencies. All of our available resources were used to getting these people up to task.

That river has been severely abused:

  • The dams block fish passage.
  • Almost all water is diverted out of the watershed.
  • The dams devastate the river.
  • Increased flooding has turned pasture land and home sites into swamps for much of the year

This is theft on a grand scale. They see this river, they see this water, they think, “We can make power of this.”

There’s already power there! It was fueling the Skokomish people.

It’s power that was already being used. They stole it, put it in a wire and sent it to the city of Tacoma and got rich off it.

Read more about the terms of the Cushman Dam settlement on our website.

Tulalip Tribes developing shoreline management plan

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Tulalip Tribes environmental planner Julia Gold described the process of developing a stormwater management plan.

The state’s Shoreline Master Program (first created in the 1970s) aims to prevent the inherent harm from uncoordinated and piecemeal development of the state’s shorelines.

It had a broad policy directive, putting emphasis on the environment:

  • Protect water quality.
  • Give preference to projects that depend on proximity to the shoreline.
  • Preserve and enhance public access.

The Tulalip Tribes is developing its own shoreline plan, which requires gathering information, identifying key issues and proposing a zone that characterizes the shoreline environment.

Some of the key issues identified so far include:

  • Bulkheads starve beaches of sediment.
  • Slide prone areas threaten cliff top homes.
  • Smaller building setbacks create a greater need for armoring.
  • Vegetation is critical to forage fish.

The tribe is identifying water dependent uses, such as fishing in Tulalip Bay, so it can plan for them and manage them.

The proposed shoreline zone will include uplands, tidelands and open water. The tribe has mapped the tidelands and proposed a buffer.

The regulatory approach includes designating land use, limiting parcel size, protecting critical areas, building setbacks and limiting impervious surfaces.

There is great potential for outreach and education at Tulalip. The tribe should connect with homeowners and associations, people living along the beach, to educate them about stormwater runoff, retention, infiltration and treatment. It should teach about poisons, hold community events such as beach cleanups and planting. Also, teach kids and get them out on field trips.

The tribe already effectively manages and restores habitat, by identifying, prioritizing and funding restoration. It also maps and controls invasives, such as spartina.

The challenge is to communicate to the community why action is needed, and to explain why the tribe needs to set shoreline policy. It’s important to involve the community in the planning process.

Terry Williams: We need a plan

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Terry Williams, commissioner of fish and wildlife for the Tulalip Tribes, opened the conference with a keynote about the importance of having a plan to restore habitat and the environment.

The American government has a plan for everything, except how to survive. The U.S. government is watching the environment unravel and know it’s because of human invention.

What was placed on this landscape was put here for a purpose and we’ve unraveled that. We’re past the tipping point.

Climate change experts at the University of Washington say we have enough water for 20 years maybe 50. There’s less snow pack, more rain, so maybe there’s a way of harnessing that for people. But that won’t work for fish and wildlife.

Forest structure has changed. There used to be trees so tall you could walk under the canopy, and carpet 18-36 inches deep. That was our water supply. That’s what helps keep the snow when it gets to the ground, helps keep it there, so it doesn’t melt off in a day or so. What we need is a forest that holds the water longer. We’ve lost wetlands, which filter water.

Wetlands were drained off a long time ago. We don’t have the infiltration sites, natural storage sites, we don’t have the source of water that feeds streams. We need to start looking at our future. What in governance do we need to change?

We don’t want to get rid of the foresters. We need to change our political structure, get language in legislation that will preserve our land for the long run.

When we lose the wild things around us, we lose hope. When we have whales die, it’s not a healthy condition.

We need to start laying out a plan for what it is that’s important to us.

Williams gave as an example the Tulalip Tribes’ efforts to convert dairy waste into biomethane.

With the dairy farmers in the Snohomish basin, for 20 years we looked at the department of Ecology, the county, the EPA, to remove dairy waste from the rivers. After a while we decided there’s got to be a better way to get waste out of the river.

Read about the tribe’s anaerobic digester here.

What’s our vision? We want water flowing from headwaters of Puget Sound. We need trees. We need vegetation. We need wetlands. We need structure. We need the laws to do that, to change. The only way to change those is to change legislation.

Tribes drafted the first watershed plans for the state of Washington in 1985.

The planning process been improved on. We have a climate model, stormwater models, pollutant models. Anything you can think of that is necessary to plan our way out of this mess were in.

The only thing that’s not here is the will of the people.

Think about what would happen if the U.S. got into a world conflict where we were temporarily confined to our borders. We couldn’t feed ourselves.

We should have a plan.

We’re designed as a country to move things. We make raw materials and we ship them out. If we don’t produce what we need here and we’re confined to pur borders, we’re in trouble. We’re not a country of producers. We don’t make products that we can just pick up and consume. We’re dependent on the world.

Indian people are the ones that understand how to do this. We understand how we fit into this structure. We understand what our needs are.

Live blogging from Tribal Habitat Conference

Monday, May 11th, 2009

I will be blogging live from the Tribal Habitat Conference May 12 and 13 at the Tulalip Inn’s Pacific Rim Ballroom in Marysville.

View the conference schedule here.