Salmon restoration is a team effort. Except for the last river mile of the Quillayute River, essentially the estuary, our restoration efforts for salmon habitat occur within the treaty area (Usual and Accustomed Area), off-reservation. Therefore, the tribe works with timber landowners and state and federal agencies to assess habitat status, prioritize projects, and implement restoration. The Quileute are fortunate to be located geographically within a forested rather than urban setting, and fish stocks in the Quillayute River System are not yet endangered. However, the tribe monitors and assesses adult returns (escapement), spawning, rearing, and habitat to assure continued stock stability.
One of the commonest fixes is removal of a fish passage blockage. Even when salmon have not used an area for 50 years, as with Prairie Falls, where a road was built in World War II without a culvert, causing Prairie Creek to flow over a cliff instead of following a channel to the Sol Duc River, salmon will return within a year to newly available habitat. In 2000, we installed a culvert under that road, allowing returning Coho and steelhead to access prime upstream spawning habitat in this Sol Duc River tributary.
How do we decide what project to emphasize? Landowner cooperation is a key part. We go over assessments with the timber operators and state co-manager (WDFW) as needed. We evaluate such factors as stock numbers, quality and area of habitat impaired or blocked, cost of a fix, and budget coordination.
Usually, Quileute has the role of grant writer, and has the fisheries expertise, but relies on the engineering expertise that the landowners can bring to the table for projects that require this, such as fish passage repair or major installation of large woody debris (rivers versus creeks). Tribal technicians have become accomplished at restoring banks to natural vegetation after culverts or bridges are installed. They have also cleared storm-damaged tributaries of downed brush and trees and stabilized creek banks with large woody debris placement in strategic positions, in accordance with current knowledge of stream dynamics.
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