A group plans to restore a popular creek in Wrangell this summer. The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition hopes the work along Pat Creek will improve salmon habitat.
As it turns out, if a tree falls in the forest — it’s good for salmon. Fallen trees create a proper fish habitat in a number of ways. Woody debris slow down streams, provide shade from the sun and places to hide from predators, and trap food matter for fish.
Plus it prevents erosion.
Angie Flickinger lives in Wrangell and works for the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition. It’s a grassroots nonprofit that works with communities, tribes and public agencies to restore regional streams and rivers.
The area around Pat Creek was logged. So the trees that have fallen into and contributed to the stream are nothing substantial. What’s in there isn’t putting up much of a fight and will flow out of the creek in due time. So, the group will bring in big, second growth spruce trees that will stick to the stream banks and stay for years to come.
“The wood that’s in the stream is very old. It’s starting to break down,” Flickinger said. “So, we’re sort of trying to buy some time. So these structures will hopefully last for 50 to 100 years until the stream banks can grow up and then fall into the stream themselves.”
The group assessed Pat Creek back in 2014. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Alaska Sustainable Salmon is providing funding for this work.
Flickinger says this looks like “reverse logging” in a sense.
“It seems like a pretty accessible restoration project,” she said. “We’re really trying to mimic the natural processes of the stream.”
The work should last a few days in the summer.
The coalition recently wrapped up an assessment of other watersheds in Wrangell. Wrangell Island is predominantly U.S. Forest Service Land. So the group focused on city land to narrow the scope of the project and give more resources to the municipal government.
“The overall results of this assessment is our watersheds are in pretty good shape,” Flickinger said.
Though there are no pressing concerns, the city can use this information when considering proposed development.
“If that area were to be developed in the future it would be good to know if there’s key salmon habitat or wetlands,” Flickinger said.
A complete assessment for the Wrangell areas is online at Alaskawatershedcoalition.org