Jump-Starting Habitat Restoration

Engineered logjams, or ELJs, are a technique for jump-starting habitat restoration in salmon-producing rivers where the natural supply of timber has been depleted: Logs are piled up to change the river’s hydraulics, which immediately increases the complexity of pools and riffles and provides sheltered alcoves for juvenile fish until replanted forests mature and take over.

Since 2004, over a hundred ELJs have been completed on the Mashel River, the largest tributary to the Nisqually River and host to all five species of native Nisqually salmonids, including threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. That work continued this summer, with the first of two intensive habitat restoration seasons at the confluence of the Mashel and the Little Mashel, near Eatonville.

All told, this project will install nine more ELJs on properties owned by the Land Trust and the Town of Eatonville. Four were completed this summer. With the early start to the fall rains, river flows have increased and returning Chinook have already been spotted nearby.

Project Manager Brian Coombs of the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group has been coordinating a team that includes Herrera Environmental engineers; an RV Associates construction crew; the Nisqually Indian Tribe, which is the Nisqually Watershed’s lead entity for salmon recovery; and the Land Trust, Eatonville, and local, state, and federal agencies.

The project will also enhance two existing side-channels to provide year-round habitat. Once construction is complete, the shoreline will be planted with native trees and shrubs.

Funding for this project is being provided by the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, via the Nisqually Indian Tribe and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.