Big Salmon Habitat Project Begins on Nooksack River
Tribes Arrange Construction of River Logjams
Lummi Natural Resources and
of Gooseberry Point install a logjam
to improve habitat
for spring chinook salmon and
bull trout along the south
fork of the Nooksack River
east of Acme.
Photo credit: Philip A. Dwyer.
The project, coordinated by the Lummi and Nooksack tribes' natural
resources departments, is intended to help restore dwindling stocks of
spring Chinook salmon and bull trout. It will provide cover from predators
and deep pools of cool water where the fish can rest on their way to
their spawning grounds.
Both fish are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species
Act. Only 120 wild salmon returned to the south fork to spawn in 2005,
according to Nooksack Natural Resources. A count of bull trout was unavailable.
The project is expected to cost more than $1 million, paid for by federal
salmon recovery grants.
A few months ago, a trail led through trees to the bank where
Hutchinson Creek flowed gently along the back of a 700-foot
berm of dirt and rock and joined the south fork of the Nooksack
in an arrangement that resembled a freeway onramp.
By Wednesday, workers had removed about half of the dike that separated
the creek from the river and redirected the creek.
The trees had been cleared, and clusters of pilings stuck up out of
the soft dirt and gravel.
Bob Doucette, who with his wife owns Gooseberry Point-based Do
Construction, swung the arm of an excavator around and clamped
the thumb down on a 60-foot cedar tree, its mess of roots still attached.
He lifted the tree, laced it through the pilings and dropped it in
a pool of water with an impressive splash.
Doucette, a former fisherman, could visualize how the project would
improve habitat for fish. "It will have deep holes and a settled
area to rest up before they hit the spawning grounds," he said. "I
would like to see (strong fish runs) come back."
The logjams involve pilings driven 40 feet underground, and logs
buried about 20 feet deep, leaving about 10 feet visible above the surface,
said Mike Maudlin, a geologist for Lummi Natural Resources.
In addition to the logjams and the dike that was removed, the project
involves building a 460-foot-long rock wall about 2,000 feet to the north.
The wall is intended as a backstop in case of floods. It should act as
a plug, preventing water from reclaiming an ancient river channel and
damaging nearby private property.
"But it's designed so the river won't get that far," Maudlin
said. That is, if the river's current configuration remains the same,
he said. If an upstream levee fails, it could make the backstop a critical
As added protection, the county plans to build a 600-foot extension
to the plug. When the project is completed, workers will remove the remaining
rocks that are keeping the muddy work site separate from the river. The
south fork should sweep into the cleared area and wash through the logjams.
Hutchinson Creek will be released from its diverted path to join the
In the winter, the fast moving south fork water will scour out the
pools, and in the summer, the creek, which is a good 20 degrees cooler
than the south fork, should chill the pools, making it more pleasant
Reach Katie N. Johannes at