Logs from Alder Lake to improve fish habitat

Alder, Washington (AP) 6-09

The logs and other woody debris that have stacked up in the reservoir behind Alder Dam near Mount Rainier are being used to improve habitat for salmon.

Tacoma Power and other partners teamed up recetly to move about 100 logs from Alder Lake to the Ohop Creek restoration project near Eatonville.

It’s part of a larger project that could turn 4.3 miles of straightened and ditched stream channel in the Nisqually River watershed back into six miles of more natural and fish-friendly stream.

The Ohop is important because it’s one of two tributaries to the Nisqually River that produce federally threatened chinook salmon.


Jeanette Dorner, salmon recovery program manager for the Nisqually Tribe, told The Olympian newspaper that if a flood or other catastrophic event were to wipe out chinook along the main stem of the Nisqually, salmon from Ohop Creek would be able to repopulate the rest of the river.

“By having separate populations in different rivers and creeks in the same watershed, you strengthen the entire population,” she said.

Florian Leischner, a tribal salmon recovery biologist, said the man-made logjams will provide better habitat for salmon and steelhead by slowing down stream flows and creating places where young fish can feed and rest.

Last week, eight loads of logs were trucked across the narrow causeway atop 1,500-foot-long Alder Dam.

The logs will be placed in a new meandering streambed that will be dug this year.

A stretch of Ohop Creek that had been straightened and ditched by farmers for irrigation and flood control in the early 1900s will be reshaped into a one-mile streambed that runs through 90 acres of wetland habitat.

Kim Gridley, project manager for the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group, one of many partners on the project, said water will flow through the streambed next year.

Tacoma Power provides log debris that collects behind its hydroelectric dam reservoirs to several stream habitat restoration projects in southwest Washington for free, said the utility’s biologist, Mark Wicke.

The wood often is a safety hazard and nuisance for boaters and other recreational users.

“In past years, we used to have to burn a lot of the wood debris,” Wicke said. “We’d rather put it to a good use like this.”