We foster partnerships and inspire Southeast Alaskans to steward their watersheds and support communities through participatory projects, research, and learning.

Field Notes - Fall 2022

Updates from SAWC & our partners.

Restoring Salmon Watersheds on Tribal Homelands

SAWC prioritizes tribal partnerships

Alaska Native Tribes are the original stewards of Southeast Alaska, and in the last few years there have been some exciting new partnerships to improve fish and wildlife habitat, build capacity, and advance co-management. SAWC has helped with capacity exchanges, trainings, project development/management, and funds. Click here for more.  

Most recently, SAWC lead a joint project proposal to restore Salmon Watershed on Tribal Homelands with: 

SAWC and partners will support Tribal and community-based work crews in landscape-scale watershed stewardship activities within the Tongass National Forest and adjacent tribal lands to achieve two main goals:

Sterling Carle (left), Jon Carle (middle) and Quinn Aboudara (right) learning how to classify channel type during a Tier II training in Klawock. (PC: Khrystl Brouillette)

First, build watershed stewardship capacity among tribal communities in Southeast Alaska.

Second, restore degraded fish and wildlife habitat on tribal homelands.

We are pleased to report that this project has been selected for funding by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, along with previously secured funding from the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Alaska Fish Habitat Partnership, and more. Click here for a story map with more:

SAWC's Next Steps

We expect this work to be a priority for SAWC over the next several years, and we are excited to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

To all our partners: Gunalchéesh hó hó 

~ Rob Cadmus, Executive Director

You're Invited! 

2023 Restoration Workshop in the Works!

Khrystl Brouillette, GIS and Communications Specialist

SAWC is planning a regional watershed restoration workshop for 2023. With funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service  as part of USDA’s Sustainable Southeast Alaska Initiative. With additional support from SEAKFHP, TNC, and TU, this won’t be your average workshop. 

The watershed workshop will focus on building capacity, bolstering partnerships, and identifying actionable goals. 

The workshop will consist of 3 parts: 

  1. Informational Webinar Series
  2. 3-day in person event in Juneau
  3. On-the-ground training opportunities

Webinars will begin in February and lead up to the 3-day workshop event in Juneau, tentatively scheduled March 7th through 9th. 

Join us! Please share this save-the-date with others! 


Interested in leading part of the workshop?

Contact khrystl@sawcak.org! 

That's a Wrap

Hoonah and Ketchikan wrap up beach sampling for fecal bacteria

Rebecca Bellmore, Science Director

SAWC has been working with Hoonah Indian Association and Ketchikan Indian Community environmental staff to monitor local recreational beaches for fecal bacteria for the past several years as part of AK Department of Environmental Conservation’s BEACH Grant Program. They recently completed their 2nd (Hoonah) and 6th (Ketchikan) summer of sampling. 

Ketchikan’s beaches have previously been listed as impaired due to fecal bacteria contamination, and 2022 was a surveillance year. With monitoring now wrapped up, Ketchikan Indian Community and SAWC are planning education and outreach campaigns targeting pet waste, septic system maintenance, and the use of pump-outs in harbors to help reduce a variety of potential sources of fecal contamination along Ketchikan’s coast. 

Hoonah Indian Association staff sample at Inner Point Sophia as kayakers paddle off in clean water. (PC: Jeromy Grant, July 6, 2022)

Floodplains are for fish, too!

East Ohmer Creek Restoration works on floodplain in Petersburg

Kelsey Dean, Watershed Scientist

SAWC and the USFS teamed up this summer to implement a stream and floodplain restoration project in the East Ohmer watershed near Petersburg. 

USFS Hydrologist Heath Whitacre and Rock and Road operator install large wood to enhance fish habitat. (PC: Kelsey Dean)

In the 1950s, trees in the project area were harvested in the floodplain and up to the stream banks. The floodplain was also mined for gravel after removing the rich, productive topsoil.

In the years since, only small, stunted trees grow on the floodplain and few trees have fallen into the stream channels. Lacking large fallen trees for many decades, the channels have transformed from complex to simple, becoming wider and shallower and offering less habitat for fish.

Because tree death and windthrow tend to bring down the oldest and tallest trees, it will take hundreds of years before trees begin to regularly fall into the streams again.

Instead of waiting, trees were placed in the streams and floodplain in this area using heavy machinery in 2022. With time, these trees will begin to reshape and improve the streams for fish and increase long-term resiliency of the streams. 

One hundred and ten, yes 110, tree trunks were placed in the floodplain in 2022.


When high stream flows spill over the bank and onto the floodplain, water and downed trees interact to create pools. When flows subside, the pools often retain water and are disconnected from the stream channel.

Fish, especially young coho salmon, can be quite abundant in these so-called off-channel pools, where they enjoy favorable temperatures for growth, abundant food, and a refuge from floods and predators. The placed trees in this floodplain serve another purpose: supporting the recovery of an old growth conifer forest as they decay to produce soil and serve as nurse logs for new trees to grow on. 

This project was a joint effort between the US Forest Service Petersburg Ranger District and SAWC’s In-Lieu Fee Compensatory Mitigation Instrument with financial support from Petersburg,Wrangell/Kake RAC and Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund.  

Check out some additional news on the project:



Stormwater can (and should) be green!

Making stormwater a little greener

John Hudson, Restoration Biologist

When rain falls and snow melts in urban environments, the resulting muddy runoff usually finds its way to urban streams with the help of curbs, gutters, catch basins and pipes. 

In Juneau’s lower Jordan Creek watershed, this stormwater runoff is more than muddy – it contains harmful pollutants like heavy metals and petroleum hydrocarbons from vehicles, and bacteria from pet waste.

Sediment-laden stormwater flows into Jordan Creek from a ditch. (PC: John Hudson)

These substances don’t belong in salmon streams like Jordan Creek or the downstream Mendenhall Wetlands. Thankfully, green stormwater infrastructure, or GSI, can be used to treat runoff, either before it enters a catch basin or after it flows out of a pipe.

With funding from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and Alaska Department of Natural Resources, SAWC installed a wet biofiltration swale (a type of green stormwater infrastructure) in a Jordan Creek greenbelt area in late September.  

Biofiltration swales are shallow elongated depressions that contain dense vegetation. The plants slow stormwater flow causing sediment and associated pollutants to settle out in the swale.

While the new swale has been excavated, we’ll have to wait until next spring to plant trees and aquatic vegetation at the site. That work will be conducted by patrons of the Glory Hall shelter and soup kitchen, located a mere stone’s throw from the swale. 

After the vegetation has established, we’ll direct a stormwater ditch into the swale to help make runoff from 13 impervious acres near the Nugget Mall a little cleaner and greener.

A contractor finishes excavating the wet biofiltration swale. Once vegetated, the swale will receive runoff from a nearby stormwater ditch that currently discharges to Jordan Creek. (PC: John Hudson)

New Tech

Submit projects to online mapping tool

Khrystl Brouillette, GIS and Communications Specialist

With funding from the USFWS, SAWC staff have been working all year to create a watershed prioritization mapper. Final mapping products are currently under review and will be available by the end of this year.

The goal of this project was to build a repository of spatial data around the region to make prioritizing future restoration projects easier. The mapper will allow the user to ask a question, like “how many anadromous streams pass over roadways in Yakutat” or “what areas have the most timber harvested streams"

Check out draft versions here:

Web Mapper
Web App

This project began by compiling lists of projects that have been completed or are planned in Southeast Alaska.

SAWC is still looking to add projects to the mapper.

If you have a completed project that should be included, fill out this google form.

Likewise, if you have a project in the works, fill out this google form to submit it to the mapper.

Please submit all projects by December 9th! 

Hiking, paddling, and motoring...for science!

SAWC and stream temperature monitoring partners collect data from loggers

Rebecca Bellmore, Science Director

Kelsey Dean improvises with a shovel to paddle to check on loggers across Peterson Lake. (PC: Rebecca Bellmore)

Chichagof Conservation Council member and long-time stream temperature monitor, Molly Kemp, prepares to install a logger in some beaver pond habitat. (PC: Rebecca Bellmore)

Many entities across the region continue to persevere in maintaining

over 70 temperature loggers, contributing data to the Stream Temperature Monitoring Network.

This year, SAWC worked with several partners to expand monitoring to multiple locations within key watersheds, including the Kadashan River near Tenakee Springs and the Klawock watershed. This effort will help us better characterize thermal habitat that is available to rearing salmon, which can take advantage of areas with different water temperatures – for example, feeding in cold areas and retreating to warmer areas to digest and assimilate their food.

During a rapid survey in the Kadashan watershed, we found habitats with a wide range of water temperatures, with side channels, beaver ponds, and upwellings sometimes varying drastically (warmer or cooler) from the main channel. Protecting these types of habitats will help protect the productivity and resilience of our salmon streams.

New W-RAIN-gell Garden

Wrangell's city park gets a new rain garden

Kelsey Dean, Watershed Scientist

You may ask: “What is a rain garden?”

A rain garden is a vegetated depression that collects water from rainfall or snowmelt, commonly referred to as runoff. When runoff originates on a road or parking lot, it contains pollutants that are harmful to aquatic life in downstream receiving waters. Rain gardens clean the water as it flows through rock, soil, and plant roots, filtering out pollutants and sediment. 

Nature is one big rain garden. However, when parking lots or buildings replace a natural space, we lose nature’s filter to impervious surfaces, like asphalt, rooftops, and compacted gravel. This was the exact scenario at City Park: runoff from a parking lot was flowing directly into a salmon stream, Playground Creek. 

SAWC’s Angie Flickinger and the City and Borough of Wrangell stepped up to solve the problem. In September of this year, a rain garden was installed next to Playground Creek to treat parking lot runoff before it flows into the stream. This project was funded through the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.  

Check out these Before and After Photos:


(At left): The site before raingarden installation showing the parking lot (upper left) and Playground Creek (lower right).  


After Raingarden installation. More native plants will be planted next spring.   

Invasive Plants be gone!

What's up with SAWC Invasive Species Program

John Hudson, Restoration Biologist

SAWC and helpers spent this summer and fall killing invasive plants on private, state, and federal lands from one end of Juneau to the other. 


Bohemian knotweed infestations can be found throughout the Juneau road system. This fall we treated hundreds of infestations, some for the tenth year in a row! While this plant can readily bounce back after treatment, we’re seeing infestations getting smaller each year. Persistence is paying off.

A dead and lonely European bird cherry next to the Eagle River in Juneau last August. The tree was killed by selectively applying herbicide to a saw cuts in the trunk PC: John Hudson

A European mountain ash in the Auke Rec shows its colors after treatment in summer 2022. (PC: John Hudson)

Hundreds of invasive European Mountain ash trees in Juneau got the same treatment. Treated trees prematurely turn a satisfying yellow, orange, or red, an indication that the treatment worked. We love seeing fall colors in mid-summer.

Invasive reed canary grass is practically everywhere in Juneau. Our strategy is to control it near salmon streams, particularly those that flow into the Mendenhall Wetlands where the plant is already established in some areas. Progress is slow as this plant, like knotweed, recovers somewhat after treatment.

SAWC thanks the following agencies and organizations for supporting our efforts to manage harmful invasive plants in Juneau: U.S. Forest Service, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, City and Borough of Juneau, The Leighty Foundation, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (Habitat Division and Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund), and the Tongass chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Happy Holidays from SAWC!

SAWC wishes everyone a safe, restful, and happy holiday season. May your skis be waxed, your snow powdered, your skies blue, and your forests old-growth.

From left to right: John Hudson, Kelsey Dean, Khrystl Brouillette, Rebecca Bellmore, Scupper, Rob Cadmus (PC: Buzz, SAWC's first drone)

Visit our website for more community watershed work in action!

P.S. It's giving Tuesday! There are lots of ways you can help us continue our work:

~ Encourage others to sign up for our newsletter

~ like us on Facebook, maybe even share a post!

~ Make a donation here