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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
In 2011, SCS began the Sitka Salmon Tours program. The goal of the tours was to give visitors a salmon’s eye view from the forests where the salmon are born, to the ocean, the fisher and processor, and finally to our plates. We’ve discontinued the Salmon Tours for 2013. Instead, we have distilled all of [...]
SCS’s short documentary Restoring America’s Salmon Forest was selected to show at the Alaska Forum on the Environment Film Festival on Friday, February 8, 2013 in Anchorage. The film focuses on a multi-agency effort to increase salmon returns on the Sitkoh River in Southeast Alaska’s Chichagof Island, by improving the spawning and rearing habitat and [...]
Surveying salmon streams on the Tongass National Forest is no easy task – it involves lugging heavy survey gear, tripods, marking stakes, and other gear through dense young growth forests and wading up to our hips in frigid water. Last month, Scott Harris, Watershed Program Manager for the Sitka Conservation Society, worked with the Angoon [...]
Click here to hear Natalia, Ray, and Courtney on Raven Radio’s Morning Interview Sitka Conservation Society staffers Natalia Povelite (Tongass salmon organizer), Ray Friedlander (Tongass forest organizer), and Courtney Bobsin (Jesuit Volunteer, Fish-to-Schools) discuss their respective projects, and why they chose to work in Sitka.
In July of 2012, thirteen undergraduate students from Knox College embarked on a 15-day wilderness expedition into the wilds of Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The trip was part of a semester long course entitled “Alaska: Forest, Fisheries, and the Politics of Wilderness”. The course entailed an in-depth study of the history of natural resource [...]
Much has changed at Sitkoh Lake since the late 1970’s. What was once an epicenter for industrial logging is now a center of activity for forest and watershed restoration. During the summer of 2012, the Sitka District of the United States Forest Service (USFS) went into the Sitkoh Lake Watershed to restore tributary streams and [...]
What comes to mind when you hear the term conservation? Petitions, polar bears, politicians, researchers? David Attenborough? Did heavy equipment tearing up a rainforest floor come to mind? Unlikely. Nestled deep within our earth’s largest temperate rainforest- conservation takes unique form. This summer, the Sitkoh River Restoration Project mobilized a team of heavy equipment operators [...]
Sitkoh River Restoration Begins! The Sitkoh River Salmon Habitat Restoration Project got started last week. SCS staff, Trout Unlimited Alaska, local high school students, and other volunteers have been helping work at the site alongside contractors and Forest Service staff. On Wednesday June 13th, the crew hosted a fly-in visit by journalists, fishermen, and the [...]
Past logging practices, now disallowed, in the Sitkoh River watershed damaged important spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steehead trout. For the past 12 years, the river has been flowing down an old logging road. Two years ago, SCS formed a partnership with the US Forest Service, Trout Unlimited, and the Alaska Sustainable Salmon [...]