“It’s all for the fish. We like the fish around here,” says Ariel Miller, daughter of Todd Miller, owner of TM Construction. “So that’s why we’re doing this.” She’s talking about the restoration of the Shelikof stream on Kruzof Island, an iconic volcanic island off the coast of Sitka in Southeast Alaska. Impacted by large scale timber harvests and stream cleaning, the Shelikof stream lacked sufficient pools for good salmon spawning and rearing habitat.
We used to think that fallen trees and other debris in streams were harmful for salmon. Turns out, salmon use the pools created by debris in the streambed for spawning. To restore salmon habitat, the Sitka Ranger District of the Forest Service partnered with TM Construction to replace the wood in the stream.
The Forest Service figures there’s supposed to be about thirteen pools per mile and here in this river, there’s only, like, two. That’s not a lot.
This is one big step toward creating self-sustaining salmon habitat in the Shelikof stream. “Having these resting areas and rearing habitat is really going to increase the survivability of coho populations. You build their home, they will come,” said Marty Becker, the Watershed Programs Coordinator for the Sitka Ranger District.
The restoration project is intended to increase salmon spawning in the area and better the resilience of the habitat to the effects of climate change. The Tongass National Forest produces huge numbers of salmon. Importantly, the Forest Service is increasingly recognizing its role in maintaining and improving this salmon resource for the good of all the families, businesses, and ecosystem connections that depend on forest resources.
By helping the salmon, we’re helping Southeast Alaska, which depends on fish both ecologically and economically. More than 50 species in the Tongass National Forest feed on salmon, and Tongass salmon supports the livelihoods of the residents of Southeast Alaska, through both commercial and subsistence fishing.
Ariel was right: we like the fish around here.
Watch the video below to meet Ariel and learn more about how river restoration projects like the one on Shelikof improve salmon habitat.