Sitka Conservation Society

Natural river system where large wood in the stream creates habitat for rearing juvenile salmon

The Sitka Conservation Society, Trout Unlimited, and the US Forest Service, in conjunction with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Sustainable Salmon Fund, are committed to a salmon habitat restoration program on the Sitkoh River. A construction contract was awarded in 2011. In-stream work will begin in Spring 2012 and be completed by mid-Summer.

The Issue

Past logging and road-building practices compromised watershed function and salmon habitat in the Sitkoh River Valley. A recent analysis conducted by The Nature Conservancy and the Forest Service identified the Sitkoh River as one of the seven highest priority watersheds for restoration on the Tongass National Forest. In public forums the community of Sitka has consistently stated that restoration in the Sitkoh area is a high priority, particularly for coho salmon and steelhead spawning and rearing habitat. The Trout Unlimited Alaska Program has also identified the Sitkoh River as one of its 25 Restoration Priority areas.

The main channel of Sitkoh River, without water. This project will restore flow to this section and provide access to additional habitat

The Solution

This Joint Watershed Restoration Project will restore two ecologically significant sections of the Sitkoh River. The project establishes a working partnership among community, state, and federal entities for ecological restoration on the Tongass National Forest. SCS plans to replicate these efforts in areas that have the highest ecological value and are defined by stakeholders as high priorities for restoration.

Phase one

This phase will restore 1,800 feet of critical salmon rearing habitat. In this section of the river, the flow has diverted down an adjacent logging road, making it shallow and wide with no pool habitat. The diverted river flows through previously harvested areas that are covered with alder and lack large conifers that would someday fall into the stream and provide fish habitat. If left alone, the diverted segment of the Sitkoh River will most likely continue to widen and erode the unstable roadbed. This will continue to impede fish passage at high and low flow periods, increase the risk of juvenile salmon mortality in the winter, and further degrade habitat downstream.

Most of Sitkoh River now flows down an old logging road

Phase one will restore Sitkoh River to its original stream channel location. Portions of the stream channel will be reconstructed to create self-maintaining pools and riffles, restore hydrologic function, and inhibit future diversions to the road. This will allow trees along the banks to grow large and serve as future sources of woody debris.

Phase two

This section is downstream of phase one. Logging down to the stream edge removed future sources of large wood to the stream. Phase two will add large wood structures. The goal is to improve salmon spawning gravels, create pool habitat, and provide control structures to reduce erosion/sedimentation and stabilize stream banks. With the funding provided by SCS, TU, and ADFG for phase one, the Forest Service will be able to commit additional resources to phase two of this project.

More Information

Check back regularly for updates!

Take the Google Earth Tour below to see a birds-eye view and photos of the project area. You must have Google Earth installed on your computer for the virtual tour to work. If the tour gets stopped, just click “EXIT TOUR” and navigate on your own!





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