The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition inspires Southeast Alaskans and supports community organizations working toward the wise management of our region’s watersheds.
Field Notes - Fall 2020
Updates from SAWC & our partners in Southeast Alaska's communities:
Healthy Watersheds
Cleaning up Alaka's Maybeso Estuary for Salmon and People
Removal of Metal Fuel Containers”- The Hollis Mine donated the use of its heavy machinery and operators to remove these large mental containers abandoned by logging operations from decades ago. 

Photo credit: Steve McCurdy, SAWC Board Member
Wild salmon still thrive in Southeast Alaska. Every year they return to clean free flowing rivers to spawn, and in doing so they support the bears, eagles, and the commercial and subsistence fisherman of the region. As they grow into juveniles these baby salmon fry drop from their natal streams into brackish estuaries that act as nurseries for them to grow in. But what’s a salmon to do if their estuary is clogged with abandoned trucks, sinking boats, and logging refuse?

While Alaska may still have many wild places, its not immune to the impacts of humans. Lessons learned from the tragic decline of salmon in the Pacific Northwest and Atlantic coasts have shown us that that each life stage of a salmon, from egg to adult, requires a specific habitat and degradation of that habitat can have serious negative impacts. At the Maybeso Estuary, a beautiful salt marsh located near the community of Hollis on Prince of Wales Island, past logging operations and illegal dumping left considerable debris on the tideflats and along a salmon streams, including an abandoned float house, old trucks, numerous boats, and two large metal containers. This debris was not just an eyesore, but it was changing the flow of a salmon stream and partially blocking stream access to salmon. The presence of the refuse started to attract more illegal dumping, as aging boats and skiff were abandoned here because people assumed no one cared.

During the summer of 2020, the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition teamed up with the Hollis Community Council, the Hollis Mine, and NOAA's Marine Debris Program and the National Marine Sanctuary Program to clean up the Maybeso Estuary. With a heartwarming amount of volunteer power from local residents and businesses, including the use of the Hollis Mine’s laborers and heavy machinery, around 35,000lb of refuse was removed from the site.
“Using fork to remove abandoned vehicle”- Care was taken not to disturb the banks of salmon streams when removing on trucks from project site.

Photo credit: Steve McCurdy, SAWC Board Member
Click here for a video of the cleanup:

While the salmon will surely benefit from having a clean and accessible nursery, the people of Prince of Wales Island are benefiting too. The Maybeso Estuary is used by the community of Hollis for fishing, boating, and outdoor recreation. It is also located adjacent to the only working ferry terminal on the Island, with all inter-island traffic passing within view of the estuary. By cleaning up and caring for such a visible site, the community of Hollis is showcasing that they steward their salmon habitat, while sending a message to others they expect them to do the same. 

A special thanks to Robert Fithian at the Hollis Mine, SAWC Board Member Steve McCurdy, Hollis resident John Ryan, and Peter Murphy from NOAA’s Marine Debris Program for working with the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition to make this project happen!  
“Old Skiffs” – Volunteers used their own boats and equipment to collect these abandoned skiff. They are awaiting removal and proper disposal, which was funded by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program.  

Photo credit: Steve McCurdy, SAWC Board Member
Mink Creek Culvert Removal and Stream Rehabilitation
Concrete, re-bar, and other non-natural materials in stream on 5/13/2020.
Newly-constructed channel showing designed bank-full limits (red lines).
Project Goal: Improve fish passage on Mink Creek (AWC listed stream 115-34-10210) by removing a failing culvert and associated road bed material.

Project Background: Takshanuk Watershed Council (TWC) identified a culvert which was an impediment to fish in Mink Creek, an Anadromous Waters Catalog (AWC) listed stream, where coho, chum, Dolly Varden, and cutthroat have been documented. Debris associated with the culvert, such as concrete and rebar, along with accumulations of natural materials, created a barrier to fish passage. The road was no longer used for motorized traffic and there was no need for the culvert to remain. After developing a plan with property owner Clay Frick and conservation easement holder Southeast Alaska Land Trust, TWC received funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the culvert and restore fish habitat.
Jordan Tanguay, Southeast Alaska Land Trust, and Clay Frick, property owner, at the project site
Science is a Family Affair
As part of an AKSSF-funded project to study water temperature variability within watersheds, we installed several new temperature loggers in Cowee and Peterson Creeks this fall. Next summer, (when travel will hopefully be safer) we will expand the study to include the Chilkat, Chilkoot, Klag, Tenakee Head, Kadashan, and Klawock watersheds with local partner groups. Because of COVID-related safety restrictions, the Peterson Creek trip was a Bellmore family affair. Ryan and baby Amelia joined Rebecca in the hike up to and paddle across Peterson Lake to install loggers in inlet streams.

Year-round data from multiple places in watersheds will help us better understand thermal habitat options for salmon. This data, coupled with multiple years of data across dozens of watersheds in the region, which stream temperature network partners have been collecting, we will gain a better understanding of watershed characteristics that contribute to thermal resilience for salmon.
Stream Temperature Network Data Now Online
We’ve launched an updated SEAK Stream Temperature Network data mapper with links to available data for sites in Southeast Alaska. Sites can be visualized by managing organization, whether data is available online, and active status. The mapper is being continually updated as new sites are installed and data is submitted. 
Stream Surveys for Klawock Sockeye
Tribal work crew surveying salmon habitat in a stream in the Klawock Watershed.  
Stewarding salmon habitat takes good science, public participation, and engaged landowners, and at the Klawock Lake Watershed on Prince of Wales Island stakeholders have come together to restore declining sockeye runs.

This summer the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition sponsored a tribal work crew run by the Klawock Cooperative Association. The crew is still out in the field conducting stream habitat surveys in stream reaches that have been identified as in need of restoration. These sockeye streams are all on lands owned by the Klawock Heenya and Shaan Seet Corporations, and both these Native Corporation have been fully supportive of the effort. Further, The Prince of Wales Tribal Conservation District helped by hosting a Tier II Stream Assessment and Salmon Spawning Survey Training for the work crew, and Kai Environmental led the training. 

SAWC biologist are pouring over the data gathered by the work crew, and we are hoping that their good work will set the stage for restoration projects next summer. We have identified several reaches that are lacking large woody debris because of past logging operations. This large wood is critical for healthy salmon habitat and we hope to employ the local crew to add large wood to restore habitat conditions. 

The project is part of a broad, collaborative effort to promote healthy and sustainable sockeye salmon populations in Klawock Lake for local communities. We would like to thank the many tribal, state, federal, NGO, business, and community partners that are helping make this effort possible.     
SAWC Vs. Knotweed: Native Plants Restored at Juneau’s Twin Lakes
A very large Bohemian knotweed infestation at the east end of Twin Lakes Park in Juneau in October 2018.
Bohemian knotweed is the highest ranking non-native invasive plant in Alaska. The plant is widely distributed throughout the City and Borough of Juneau (CBJ) road system. Once established, knotweed forms dense stands that easily outcompete and displace native plants, including wildflowers and berry-producing plants that people and wildlife enjoy.
While it’s not clear how Bohemian knotweed came to Juneau, the plant displays strikingly attractive gold-colored foliage in the fall. Unwitting gardeners likely shared plants and then came to discover knotweed’s amazing ability to spread and resist control efforts. New infestations arise when plant parts are discarded at dead ends and over the guardrails along scenic turnouts. Roadside mowing and brushing activities have aided the wide distribution of knotweed throughout the road system.

SAWC has been taking-on knotweed during the past four years. We’re working public and private landowners to control more then 100 infestations in the CBJ. At Twin Lakes Park partnered with the Parks and Recreation Department to eradicate thousands of square feet of knotweed. Now that only a few knotweed sprigs remain in the park, we’ve begun the process or restoring native plants back to these sites. With the help of community members, we planted 350 native salmonberry and thimbleberry plants in areas previously infested with knotweed this summer. We’re looking forward to seeing these former infestations turn into edible landscapes for both people and wildlife.

SAWC would like to thank the Thunder Mountain High School and Zach Gordan Youth Center crew for helping with the planting. Knotweed control and revegetation efforts were supported by grants from the Copper River Watershed Project and Avista Foundation.
Native salmonberry and thimbleberry are planted in a former knotweed infestation at the east end of Twin Lakes Park in Juneau in August 2020.
Local Foods
Salt and Soil Builds Food Security During Covid Crisis  
The Salt and Soil Marketplace was in a unique position when Covid unravelled earlier this year. The marketplace was already operating in a way in which Covid-best practices were the norm including contact-less payment, orders were already sent to distribution and then aggregated to simplify and streamline the pickup process, and then when we implemented curbside service and free deliveries this added an extra layer of security for our customers. Already having an established marketplace allowed vendors with more traditional selling models to come on board rather seamlessly. We were able to partner with the Juneau Community Gardens when the annual plant sale was cancelled offering a viable venue, and the same is true for many other vendors in similar situations as Juneau's monthly Saturday Markets were also cancelled.  

 We have seen a significant increase in both vendor and customer participation this summer - who would have thought that a global pandemic would push so many folks towards actively seeking local foods! We have received great feedback this season from customers who have started their own "victory gardens" and began selling their excess on the marketplace, to complete strangers who have stopped me while out delivering customer orders to ask about the marketplace and thank us for the essential work we are doing. 
Salt & Soil customers have been incredibly generous this season in donating hundreds of dollars to the Healthy Foods = Healthy Families Initiative. The initiative works to help get high quality local foods into the hands of folks who wouldn't otherwise have access. So far through the initiative we have sponsored seven families with sponsorships for local produce and seafood; we have also had the opportunity to connect with local organizations such as the Southeast Alaska Food Bank, AWARE, and most recently the Food Sovereignty Friday project at UAS. 

At the end of May, Salt & Soil moved off of grant funding and is now funded through the marketplace income. Moving off of the grant has allowed for a few changes to the marketplace including sourcing high quality Alaskan products from outside of Southeast. We have started to sell whole frozen broiler chickens raised by the amazing folks at Blood, Sweat, and Food Farms in Homer. In recent customer surveys folks had expressed interest in sourcing high quality meat from Alaskan farmers. While Southeast vendors take precedence on the marketplace we are excited to start offering items to diversify and supplement the current inventory and add value for customers shopping the marketplace. 

We were so lucky to work with a wonderful asset to the Salt & Soil team this summer - Abigail Blinn. While here in Juneau for the summer, Abigail worked on recipe cards highlighting common Alaskan grown produce. These materials were made available to customers as well as farmers. Check out the recipes here:

We are hoping to keep up the momentum of an awesome summer season and carry it into the fall.  
The 2020 Local Foods Challenge is in its final month to be wrapped up at the end of September. For five months, challengers have been asked to increase their level of engagement in 10 categories of the food systems. Registered participants receive weekly newsletters with tips, story updates, and resources to help them with their challenge. The last activity of the challenge is a 10 day Eat Local campaign. Participants are challenged to make their meals as local as possible from September 18 to 27th and share on social media to be eligible for prizes each day of the challenge. At the end of the month, all participants will report on their progress and we will tally up how much people were able to increase their local food knowledge, skills, and connections this summer. More information can be found at

Douglas Fruiting Forest
Apple trees and strawberry barrels chosen for their adaptability to our short growing season.
The Douglas Island Fruiting forest is a project initiated by CBJ parks and recs to create more opportunities around local food production and harvesting. SAWC has been helping the fruiting forest in 2020 by planting many transplanted raspberry canes, Tlingkit potatoes, and other vegetable starts in the spring. In our two years helping promote and propagate the fruiting forest we have seen it’s berry production roughly triple. We hope to find more neighborhood members who want to sponsor the garden in terms of taking care of more regular weeding and garden upkeep in the fall or for the coming year.