Updates from September, 2015 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • troyal 9:58 pm on September 17, 2015 Permalink
    Tags: bull trout, chinook, , Skokomish Watershed Monitoring Conference, steelhead   

    Endangered Species Monitoring and Status 

    Mark Downen, WDFW – Bull trout

    There are two populations of bull trout –  north fork Skokomish River/Cushman (resident and adfluvial – ocean going); and south fork Skokomish River (resident, fluvial, anadromous)

    Monitoring taking place:

    South Fork includes redd counts from river mile 0 to RM 10 by Church Creek

    North Fork includes looking at peak live adult counts, via snorkel surveys upstream of Lake Cushman.

    South Fork redd index data – up until 2014, seen variation of numbers of redds, between 2000-2013. Low and variable is the take home message of the overall population.

    North Fork live adults counts – 1995 – 2013 – again varied, fairly constant though, more than 100 per year for the most part.

    When doing surveys for steelhead, found bull trout, some at 17-22 inches, some as large as 27 inches. See more and more bull trout show up when steelhead arrive. Presumably, BT are feeding on steelhead eggs.


    Populations in Skokomish still remain small

    Fragmentation is still problematic but fish passage in the north fork provides future options.

    Recent increases in steelhead are likely to positively influence survival of all life stages.


    Historic spring populations in the upper SF, NF; Fall populations were in the mainstream, lower SF and NF.

    In the 40s, 50s, 60s – that’s when we seemed to have lost genetic population. Not sure what it was, but developed a genetically foreign population in the Skokomish. Late run no longer is detectable. Spring chinook is rare.

    George Adams hatchery uses Green River fall stock. Risk factors abound for chinook in Skok river – geographic location, small basin size and unstable geology, forest practices, hydroelectric impacts.

    The Skokomish Tribe and WDFW work collaboratively to survey all the available spawning habitat in the Skokomish River.

    With the increased flows from the North Fork, it seems chinook are moving up the NF more and more.

    Fish are entering river in earnest in July. Peak in Early to mid august. Starts to wane mid-september. Majority of redds are in the mainstem.

    For sampling, SF, NF and mainstem – important to get age, sex, length, mark rates (marked with CWT and/or adipose clipped).

    Trends: 2008-2014 – returns of chinook spawners:

    Had increasing trend though 2013, then steep decline in 2014. But seeing fairly continuous increase of 200-300 that are natural origin.

    George Adams Hatchery program:

    Release 3.8 million juvenile chinook from the hatchery each year since 2003.

    again, look at age, sex, mark rates.

    Spawning and Arrival timing trends – downward trend in peak arrival and spawning since 1994. This isn’t entirely explained by genetics, we think. We tend to surplus the early fish that come back. Yet they come earlier and earlier each year.

    In general, overall efforts to recover Skokomish River chinook:

    • Habitat restoration
    • Forest Practices
    • Cushman re-licensing
    • Spring Chinook reintroduction
    • Develop and evaluate a late timed GA hatchery stock
    • Fisheries directed on hatchery production

    Matt Kowlaski, Skokomish Tribe, Salmon/Steelhead biologist: Steelhead

    2007 – Steelhead listed on the ESA list,

    2006-07 NOAA started leading the steelhead supplementation project, increased the amount of monitoring in the watershed.

    What we’re finding out:

    Monitoring Activities: Redd surveys – primary way to get escapement estimates into the system.

    Other Monitoring activities: Snorkel surveys, smolt trapping, parr sampling, early marine survival.

    Monitoring 50 miles of habitat from July through August. The only gaps we have are in a few small gaps in canyon areas where its fast and rocky.


    From 2007 – 2015, seeing increase in escapement trends during supplementation program.  Have 3 more years of seeing results from supplementation program.


    Overall, seeing the most steelhead spawning in South Fork of the river, especially the Upper South Fork.

    Have seen increases in spawning in the North Fork since the increases in water flow started.

    Spawning trends: South Fork is a month ahead of North Fork in terms of spawning timing

    Snorkel Surveys: Upper South Fork

    2014: Mid-may is when scientists found the most live steelhead observations

    2015: again, peaked in May

    Smolt trap data: hard to capture data, low numbers, changes in channel, low efficiency,

    Parr Sampling: catch 90 parr a year

    Early Marine Survival:  79 percent from river mouth to hood canal bridge, 20 percent survivals from hood cana bridge to strait, hope to start study that soon.

    Stacy Vynne, Puget Sound Partnership – adaptive management process

    Overall, 16 chinook different recovery chapters, all different languages, formats, regions, old plans, no comprehensive monitoring planning and not connected to the region-wide effort

    The need: To tell the story of salmon recovery

    Goals: use common language, standards for management, one database, support as each region works through their recovery plans.

    Objective: better goals for chinook recovery, better understand habitat, threats, pressures and what to do about them, improved monitoring

    Gained: prioritized goals, common indicators, tools to use to get to end point.

    Created a Simplified Chain of Logic: helps develop and execute the plan and strategies.

    ourhoodcanal.org – Hood Canal Coordination Council – integrated watershed plan linage to Chinook M&AM

    Value of the work for Skokomish:

    • helped with gaps in data for recovery plan update
    • better opportunity for learning
    • can talk the same language with Mid Hood Canal and Skokomish chinook recovery plans
    • system in place for learning, reporting, sharing data



  • troyal 7:07 pm on September 17, 2015 Permalink  

    Skokomish Valley Updates 

    Seth Book, Skokomish Tribe environmental biologist – Water Quality

    Overview of the Tribe’s projects:

    We do work all over the Hood Canal region.

    This year, we had a few fish kills this summer, plus a dead zone in lower Hood Canal, near Lynch Cove. Finding zero dissolved oxygen in this area. We’ve seen this before, in 2007, where there is nothing able to live in that area for a period of time. Our fish kills haven’t been as big as in the past but it’s a big concern for us.

    Shellfish bed harvest closures because of water quality issues.

    Skokomish is legendary for flooding in the fall. But the past few years have not had floods reach the tribal center, so that’s a good thing.

    Water quality assessments – look at more than 21 freshwater sites and assess, plus 9 well sites. Expanded lab to include organics analysis, as well as nutrients analysis as before.

    The program has been monitoring water quality since 1995. Main constituents are water quality parameters. We work under EPA guidelines.

    Surface monitoring locations include at gages on South Fork and North Fork of the Skokomish River, at the tribe’s hatchery on Enitai Creek, as well as out in the estuary.

    Groundwater monitoring at nine wells, mostly accessed from Skokomish River Road.

    There is a potential model with USGS PUD1 MCD, Skok and Squaxin island tribes and stakeholders to figure out how much water there is in these aquifers so we can better understand how much water we have in the future and how it would impact groundwater and the local hatchery operations.

    Work funded by EPA grants: General Assistance Program, the 106 Clean Water Act and the 319 non point source pollution.


    Bacteria dominated because of shellfish impacts. Fecal coliform and ecoli are causing closures. Nutrients can be an issue. We had large macro algae blooms in estuary; sea lettuce species that grew in big thick mats smothered shellfish beds. Plus the dead zones.

    Flooding – the septic systems aren’t working and so when flooding, don’t touch the water.

    We are doing additional studies, but we need to pinpoint the places to correct them. Cattle, septic, recreational, all the different impacts – we have to keep up on. it shows we need to continue to work together.

    Florian Lesichner, Tacoma Power: Skok River Channel Monitoring

    Skok valley is most frequently flooded valley in West Washington.

    Why does it flood? When water exceeds bank channel, and out of flood plain, that’s when flooding happens.

    Rivers should only flood about 1-1.5 years. For the Skok, it needs to be at 14,000 cfs to flood.

    Army Corps of Engineers is studying the history of the river’s flooding, figuring out what could have contributed to this increase over the decades.

    Part of new dam re-licensing agreement for Lake Cushman – large pulses of water are released to help push sediment down river, as dams have prevented natural flow of sediment in river system. Monitoring 11 sites for this effort.

    North Fork – so far – not much happening. very stable.

    South Fork – very dynamic.

    Mainstem – has been somewhat stable.

    Flows above about 4,000 CFS starts to flood landowners in the valley.

    Flood damage reduction and mitigation plan is due early 2017.

    Rich Geiger – Mason County Conservation District: What projects are ongoing and what projects are slated for the near future

    In 1930s, state and county started working on flooding projects in the area. Historically the focus has been on flooding and restoration, but they were seen as band-aid projects – the problem was not being corrected.

    In 2003 – there was a dike breach and channel change in a single flood event. At this point, Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) was brought in to (re) start the General Investigation process.

    Recon Phase was from 1999-2000

    Feasiblity Phase 2006-2015 – wrapping up now.

    ACOE is now recommending to Congress several projects to take place, including setting back a levy and reconnect an old channel that was the mainstem one time.

    Army Corps  – not doing all the projects needed, as there has been a lot of local agencies doing work already. Floodplain reconnecting, new channel creation, channel and riparian restoration, etc.

    For the Corps restoration projects, pending funding – design phase 2017-19; construction 2019-2021

    Recommended plan features: engineered logjams (creating better habitat for salmon and help with sediment transport issues in this year); removal of levee at confluence of mainstream and north fork; work with landowners to move back an existing levee (will expand flood plain, lower flood levels, create side channels); wetland restoration at the valley’s Grange property (creating side channel)

    There is so much sediment in the river channel that water actually goes underground during fish migration season.

    Local restoration projects:


    • Skokomish Estuary restoration –
      • 2007 – removed a mile of dike west of Nalley Island, built elevated boardwalk
      • phase 2 – removed more dikes around Nalley Island
      • phase 3 – cut more channels, replacing undersized culverts with bridges on Tacoma Access and Skok Flats roads, reconnecting the tidal channels from estuary to the fresh water sources
    • South Fork LWD – Holman Flats
      • 2015 – harvesting wood to stockpile at Holman Flats (was a potential dam site in the 1950s for Tacoma but abandoned because of earthquake fault)
      • in 2010, completed a LWD phase in SF. Natural, no anchoring, no cable connection, just interlinked.
      • Results – all structures have remained in tact and gathered additional wood. Helped with channel reformation.
      • on average, gravel bar heights increased 2.4 feet though project reach; max accumulation height on structure was 6.6 feet.
    • South Fork Canyon Fish Passage Assessment
      • just upstream from Holman Flats
      • Location of High Steel Bridge
      • Good news – some passages are pretty good.
      • Collecting data to model flow through these falls and determine what fish can do, then figure out what could be done to help with fish passage
    • Mainstem LWD – Design only (SRFB funding)
    • Weaver Creek Realignment 2015 construction
      • similar to a type of project you’ll see on the Skok
      • located between Mainstem and purdy Creek.
      • Creek is great shape up the valley – historically had a severe s-shape to it
      • in the mid 1900s, oxbow was cut off and slightly straightened the river
      • now river bed is so high, sediment has built up and in fact flows backwards into old channel; thus blocking off Weaver Creek
      • Goal is to realign it to old channel shape.
    • West Skok Valley Road
      • also known as the Dips
      • goal is to realign the road, reconnect river into an old channel, possibly move road toward the valley wall or above the valley
    • Upper South Fork Assessment 2015 SRFB
      • eight miles in length, from Church Creek to Brown Creek


  • troyal 5:22 pm on September 17, 2015 Permalink  

    Fish Passage Monitoring and Fisheries 

    Matt Bleich, Tacoma Power: Fish passage at Cushman Hydro Project: Challenges and Updates

    These dams are 90 years old and this is the first time there is opportunity for fish passage since they were constructed.

    Fish passage work at Little Falls this year – located in between the two dams, very steep grade for fish, with high velocity water flow, made it hard for fish to get up stream.

    Needed to do it with minimal impacts to the area, since it’s also culturally viable area to the tribe.

    Since the amendments to Little Falls, more fish have been headed upstream of Little Falls. Coho have been showing up in good numbers, right up to the fish trap at Cushman 1. We’ve also seen a few steelhead come up the river so it’s promising to know they can get upstream.

    It’ll take the next year to find out fully how Little Falls improves fish passage.

    Florian Leischner, Tacoma Power: 

    We’re not fish managers but the work we do sometimes comes close to fish management.

    History of Lake Cushman includes more than 100 years of resident fish stockings. In 1899, Lake Cushman had 2,500 brook trout.

    Fish eegs, sea-run cut throat, Hood Canal sea-run cutthroat were all stocked in Lake Cushman. Since 2000s, Cushman fisheries have been targeting self-sustaining populations, so less stocking.

    At the same time at Lake Kokanee – from 2001-present, the state first, now Tacoma, put in several thousand rainbow trout (4,000-9,000) for a put-and-take fishery.

    Surveys of the Lake Cushman in 2012 show that bull trout were the biggest but the population was Salish suckers. Same for 2013. Few bull trout but ginormous fish.

    So what is the recreational fishery targeting? Just a few species: Kokanee, cutthroat, bull trout but then occasionally get a resident chinook.

    When Sockeye come back, and then have Kokanee in the lake, it’s going to be a challenge to determine what to pass, what not to pass. Nightmare for the co-managers too (tribes and state) to keep the Kokanee fishery alive.

    Future monitoring:

    New lake Kokanee creel survey will be in 2019, plus fish passage and upper North Fork Skokomish basin disposition monitoring will take place. It’d be great to get 100,000 Sockeye in the lake.


  • troyal 4:40 pm on September 17, 2015 Permalink  

    Update on work at lakes Cushman and Kokanee 

    Leah Marquez-Glynn, Tacoma Power

    How TPU is managing reservoirs and what has been done in the past year.

    Goals of managing the reservoirs:

    • Downstream ecology of the North Fork of the Skokomish River
    • Recreation – summer operation elevation
    • Use of available storage to reduce peak down stream flows
    • Power production

    We’re continuously monitoring discharge, in-flows, generator status of the reservoirs at Cushman and Kokanee. We’re always keeping an eye on weather and climate predictions. We have to be ready for the full potential of weather scenarios.

    With this year’s drought, we worked proactively to manage the anticipated weather patterns.

    There was a lot of rain and not so much snow this past winter, and we did in fact have record low in flows. Mid-April, we stopped running Cushman 2 dam, and only released minimum flows.

    Tacoma worked with the FHC to modify the minimum flow regime in response to the 2015 drought conditions.

    Andy Oldenburg – Tacoma Power, Fish facilities manager for the Hydroelectric Cushman Project

    Salmon Reintroduction at Cushman

    Upstream passage has been in operation since last year, bringing fish up from the bottom of the Lake Kokanee dam and move them up river. Downstream passage is functional too. We collect juvenile fish from Cushman (hatchery or wild) and bring them below the dams to release them.

    We also do hatchery supplementation, and will work with chinook, steelhead, coho and sockeye to raise them in the Cushman facilities.

    Restoration work in the river included modifications of Little Falls, which included carving out resting pools and passages for the fish. It was so steep, fish had a hard time getting up it.

    Fish passage up Little Falls happened immediately after the work was done last fall. It’s functioning like we’d hope it would.

    Sorting Facility at the top of the Kokanee dam: adult fish are sorted and transported to either the river, upstream in Cushman, into a hatchery for the broodstock, or removed from watershed b/c they are an invasive species – all part of partnership work with area groups to determine where these fish need to go to meet everyone’s needs.

    In the fish collector – found chinook, bass, a frog, crayfish, and wild fish! It’s been interesting to see what we been collecting in that facility.


    Sockeye will be raised at Saltwater Park Hatchery (under construction)

    Chinook, steelhead and coho will be raised at North Fork Skokomish Salmon Hatchery (under construction)

    North Fork hatchery is currently being constructed on Lake Cushman.

    Saltwater Park Hatchery is currently being constructed on Hood Canal  & Highway 101.

  • troyal 4:09 pm on September 17, 2015 Permalink
    Tags: , Skokomish Watershed Monitoring Conference 2015   

    Plenary Speakers: Skokomish Tribe, Tacoma Power 

    Plenary Speakers

    Joseph Pavel – Skokomish Tribe Natural Resources Director

    We work with all these different agencies, political and technical folks to accomplish our goals of restoring, recovering and maintaining our resources.

    There’s a lot going on, there’s a lot of information out there. I think this a sharing experiencing, what information is available and using that information.

    I know we’re seeing results, in our estuary, our upper watershed, we’re able to measure those results – for fish, for wildlife and aquatic habitats.

    The Skokomish People are successors to the historic people who occupied 13 village sites throughout Hood Canal. This is our homeland and this is the lifeblood of our people right now – to be able to have those resources, fish, wildlife, plant, medicines to sustain our mind body spirit culture and economy.

    Keith Underwood – Tacoma Power

    Tacoma wasn’t always a great environmental partner in the past. It’s nice to be able to finally be able to partner with the tribe after 70 plus years of fighting, now working in the same room together, side-by-side.

    Tacoma has gone through a lot of growth the past few years. We’re a new partner to you folks as a lot of you have been working together for years before we came on the scene.

    My first meeting with the tribe was with Dave Herrera at the Skokomish Tribe. I’m a very large supporter of this tribe. I was a fish biologist for the Spokane Tribe. I was working with a bunch of disassociated groups for a project to clean up Lake Roosevelt and with a united front we were able to obtain funding and confront a company in Canada that was sending pollutants in to a lake. So now they’re upholding this company to maintain Superfund regulations.

    Here in the Skokomish, we’ve had limited flows coming out for years, we have sediment issues, and now have a great deal of work and different view points to find the solutions to these problems.

    It’s not just me though – the science guys and gals – it’s going to take public buy into get this work done. This is in a smaller context in this watershed compared to Spokane but the work is the same.

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