We foster partnerships and inspire Southeast Alaskans to steward our watersheds and support communities through participatory projects, research, and learning.
Field Notes - Summer 2019
Updates from SAWC & our partners in Southeast Alaska's communities:
A Hot and Dry Summer
Juneau’s Jordan Creek without water because of hot and dry conditions at the Glacier Highway Bridge, July 9. 
Alaska Clean Water Action helps clean up water quality for Juneau and Ketchikan Waters

This year, SAWC received three grants from the AK Department of Environmental Conservation’s Alaska Clean Water Action program to address water quality issues in Jordan Creek (Juneau) and in the Ketchikan area.

In Jordan Creek, over the next two years we will be monitoring water and sediment quality to understand the impacts of urban stormwater runoff, working on a riparian improvement project, and developing a watershed management plan.
Unfortunately, water quality sampling in Jordan Creek has been limited by extreme low flows this summer – much of the creek has been dry since early July. However, the riparian improvement project is well underway at the Super 8 Hotel. John Hudson, SAWC restoration biologist, has been working with the land managers to install fencing to protect the riparian vegetation from pedestrian traffic and limit littering. Additional planting in the riparian area with willows, salmonberry and spruce from SAWC’s native plant nursery will occur later this fall. 

Water quality monitoring over the past several years at Ketchikan area beaches and creeks has shown elevated bacteria concentrations at many locations. Rebecca Bellmore, SAWC Science Director, is collaborating with the Ketchikan Indian Community to continue to sample the beaches weekly this summer. All sites have exceeded water quality criteria on occasion, but we have found that some sites – including a popular children’s swimming area – are exceeding criteria more regularly than others. High bacteria concentrations, which can be a health risk, have become an important community concern, and we are now working with stakeholders to identify and address the causes of this contamination through an area-wide watersheds management plan. Rob Cadmus (SAWC Director), Rebecca, and John recently took a trip to Ketchikan to learn more about the possible sources of bacteria and potential management options by surveying the beach sites and streams and meeting with the public works department of the city of Ketchikan.
(Left) KIC employees Sam Naujokas and Cameron Tillisch sample water for bacteria and record data. (Right) Ketchikan residents enjoy a warm day at the beach.
(Left) Rob stands near a stormwater drain on Carlanna Creek. (Right) “Copper ridge” is a natural source of copper in the Ketchikan watershed.
Salmon Habitat Restored at Pats Creek.
Fish like trees (when they fall in a stream they create pools and other preferred habitat). The lack of mature trees along (and also in) Wrangell’s Pats Creek has resulted in less than optimal fish habitat including over widened areas lacking pools and cover. During this summer, the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition added “large wood” (over 31 tree trunks & roots) to Pats Creek to improve fish habitat and stabilize the streambanks. An abandoned logging road was also breached to allow the channel to naturally migrate across the floodplain, and the Division of Forestry decommissioned a second road that was blocking salmon from accessing important habitat.
Pat Creek Watershed is located on Wrangell Island in Southeast Alaska, about 12 miles south of the community of Wrangell. It supports Coho, Pink, Chum, and Sockeye salmon, Dolly Varden char, and cutthroat trout, and is an important recreational fishing area for locals. The valley bottom, including most of the riparian area, was logged in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, prior to the implementation of the Alaska Forest Resources and Practices Act. This has resulted in stretches of over-widened stream nearly devoid of large woody debris that is important for fish habitat. The project took place within the Southeast State Forest on land that was previously part of the Tongass National Forest. 
Before- Pats Creek is a beautiful stream, but there are few pools or large wood debris for fish. 
After- Pats Creek still looks beautiful and natural, and SAWC has placed large trees in the stream to create pools, cover, and ideal habitat for fish.  
Thanks to the many partners that have played a role in this project: Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, AK Division of Forestry, US Fish and Wildlife Service, AK Department of Fish and Game, and US Forest Service. BW Enterprises harvested and placed the logs with the supervision of experts with Interfluve Inc. Support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, and US Fish and Wildlife Service was critical to making the project happen.  
Cross-regional exchange advances food security in Yakutat

The group visited Squaxin Island gardens in Shelton, Washington, to learn about how their program brings tribal members together to promote wellness, job skills and food sovereignty.
SAWC and The Nature Conservancy facilitated a cross regional learning exchange between community leaders from Yakutat and sustainability experts in Washington and Oregon to advance food security and sustainable economic development.  

The Nature Conservancy’s Communities, Economies, and Place Initiative (CEPI) gatherings in December 2018 and April 2019 sparked discussions between Martha Indreland, the economic development coordinator for the City and Borough of Yakutat, Mike Maki, a soils and local business consultant from Washington, and Jennifer Nu, SAWC local foods director and food sustainability catalyst for the Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP), to pursue a shared vision for economic development, environmental stewardship, and food security in Yakutat and Southeast Alaska.
Climate change and the potential for transport disruptions have increased local concerns for food security. Moby the Mobile Greenhouse’s stay in Yakutat in summer 2018 helped catalyze discussions around community greenhouse and a community market garden. Community leaders are interested in exploring the potential for the applicability and value of developing initiatives and small businesses to transform fish waste into marketable, organic fish fertilizer products, compost the community’s food scraps, and utilize these locally-produced soil amendments to support increased cultivation of local produce.

The first part of the exchange took place in May. Yakutat community leaders organized a fact-finding tour to explore potential sites and partners in Yakutat. In August, community leaders traveled from Yakutat to Washington and Oregon to visit organizations, businesses, and tribal organizations to learn and strengthen knowledge and networks around composting, local food production, food sovereignty, economic development, and environmental stewardship.

This exchange has facilitated momentum for planning and implementing pilot projects in Yakutat this fall. A full report and storytelling blog post will be produced and posted in September. 
Dan Cherniske of Symbiotic Cycles explains how his team designs low-input aquaponics systems to grow vegetables and also cultivate native wetland plants for ecological restoration projects. 
Visiting Recology’s site that processes yard and residential food scraps for the City of Portland. 
Community leaders and Mike Maki visit Yakutat’s newly-built community garden beds and the site for composting and a community greenhouse. 
Switzer Creek Fish Passage Improvement Project a Success
 A new footbridge replaces hollow-log culverts on a small salmon stream in Juneau’s Switzer Creek watershed .
Fish seeking access to important habitat in Juneau’s Switzer Creek watershed now have easier access to a small headwater stream. Before last May, 2 hollow-log culverts under an old logging road were blocking fish from several hundred feet of high-quality spawning, rearing, and overwintering habitat.

Small waterfalls flowing from the perched culverts prevented all but the largest and strongest fish from getting into this important spring-fed tributary. The decomposed logs were also causing the former road (now trail) to collapse. SAWC hired Howell Constructing to remove the logs and shape a new channel in the roadbed. Then SAWC staff constructed a timber stringer bridge across the new channel and placed vegetated mat on the channel slopes to prevent erosion.

Small trees and shrubs in the mats will eventually shade the stream and provide overhead cover to protect fish. Only a few days after the logs were removed, a juvenile coho salmon was seen vigorously swimming upstream through the new channel.

This project was supported by City and Borough of Juneau Parks and Recreation Dept., Patagonia Inc., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Alaska Brewing Company. 
Knot in Juneau Back Yards
While most people may not recognize Bohemian knotweed by name, they’ve certainly witnessed how this invasive plant has taken over many parts of Juneau. Bohemian knotweed is a hybrid between Japanese and Giant knotweeds and was likely introduced to Juneau as an ornamental plant. While the gold-colored fall foliage brightens the landscape, this plant is extremely aggressive and can rapidly displace desirable native plants like salmonberry and thimbleberry. SAWC and others have successfully controlled knotweed infestations on private properties in Juneau for many years. This year we’re partnering with the Alaska Dept. of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) to battle knotweed infestations in state rights-of way. Roadside stands of tall and dense knotweed create a serious safety hazard by preventing drivers from seeing other vehicles as well as pedestrians and cyclists. In July, we worked with a DOT&PF crew to prepare knotweed infestations around Juneau for herbicide application. The crew bent knotweed canes to the ground to facilitate easier herbicide application in late Sept. and early Oct. We expect the treatments will kill more than 98% of the plants by next spring. This project was made possible by funds from the U.S. Forest Service through a grant from the Copper River Watershed Project in Cordova.
A DOT&PF maintenance and operations worker prepares a knotweed infestation for herbicide treatment by bending the stalks down to the ground near Twin Lakes in July.
Jordan Creek Greenbelt Improvements Continue
Children in the Discovery Southeast Outdoor Explorers summer program catch aquatic invertebrates in Jordan Creek in June.
After replacing two pedestrian bridges and removing an obsolete bridge last spring, efforts to improve the Jordan Creek Greenbelt have continued this summer. Led by Juneau International Airport (JIA), the greenbelt is getting numerous upgrades to improve the site as a natural area for Juneau residents and visitors. This summer JIA crews relocated a social trail that crossed through an adjacent private parcel and surfaced all the trails with recycled asphalt leftover from runway improvements. Numerous large rocks have been placed along the trail system to provide visitors with a place to sit and enjoy the surroundings. A deep and steep-sided pond was filled with soil to eliminate a drowning risk. Crews selectively removed or trimmed trees, brush, and branches to create a more inviting landscape, promote understory plant growth for wildlife, and ensure public safety. The greenbelt, which has long suffered from litter problems, now has 3 bear-proof trash cans that were donated by CBJ Parks and Recreation Dept.

Later this summer and fall, SAWC and CBJ landscaping staff will control invasive reed canarygrass which has invaded much of the greenbelt. Together, these improvements are intended to transform a once neglected and misused piece of land into a safe and beautiful open space where the public can enjoy Jordan Creek and its surroundings. As an example of this, SAWC staff spent a morning exploring the greenbelt with children in Discovery Southeast’s Outdoor Explorers Program in June. The children collected and learned about the aquatic invertebrates that live in Jordan Creek. This project is supported by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s 5-Star Urban Waters Program.
Trash cans, rock benches, and newly surfaced trails are some of the improvements made to the Jordan Creek Greenbelt this summer.
Salt & Soil Brings Local Food to Families; 
Healthy Foods = Healthy Families initiative
We have started a program called the Healthy Food = Healthy Families initiative. It pairs Salt & Soil customers with families who can’t afford to buy fresh nutritious local food. Families receive a $25 credit each week on Salt & Soil, and we currently sponsor one family ourselves while our customers sponsor two more. We had high hopes to work with the USDA’s Women, Infants and Children program to provide even more local produce for food insecure families, but after a lengthy approval process this effort fell through and thus we created this new initiative.

The Healthy Food-Healthy Families Initiative is dependent on the donations and good will of our customers and vendors.  Contact us if you want to contribute or participate.  
DEC Variance for Cottage Foods
We have a new special variance to the cottage food laws that allows us to offer a wider variety of cottage foods to be sold without a “in person transaction”. This means we can sell low risk cottage foods – such as jams, jellies, or self-stable products – that are made in home kitchens from various locations in Southeast Alaska. This normally would not be allowed for an online market like Salt & Soil. We are only allowed to do this because of our demonstrated commitment to safety and transparency in our management of an online farmers market. We hope this allows a wider number of food producers to participate in the market across the region.
Example of a safe cottage food product: Flavored salts from Glacier Salt Cave & Spa in Juneau, AK
Local Food Sales Down

The bad news is that even with a growing producer base and wider variety and quantity of produce; our sales are almost halved from this time last year. We have been conducting interviews of customers and producers, and the consensus is that the budget cuts and resulting job losses, economic recession, and insecurity are leading people to not spend as much on local food. We plan to address this by partnering with the once a month in person farmers market to have a larger farmers market based in downtown Juneau that is also a Salt & Soil distribution.

Expanding to Sitka

Due to one farm reaching out to us to see if we could help manage their CSA – we ended up opening a Sitka branch of Salt & Soil. Currently, it only has 3 vendors but it is entirely vendor run as well, creating a new model for how we can help local food producers in an efficient and low cost way.

We have no membership fee or markup as long as we are not helping with logistics, distribution, or marketing. We also just switched Haines to this model.

Hooked Seafood Closed

We lost our oldest and one of our most popular Juneau drop-off locations – for the second time. Hooked Seafoods announced they were closing their doors after opening under new management this year. Not enough sales in the summer meant they needed to close shop before going into debt in the winter. They were a great partner, and we are also going to be effected by this closure. We are actively looking for a new Valley area drop-off location, and we welcome any suggestions. 
Takshanuk Watershed Council Monitoring
Palmer Mine Project
In April 2019, Constantine Mining LLC of Vancouver Canada applied for State of Alaska development permits which would allow the construction of a 1.25-mile-long mine access tunnel, a wastewater treatment facility and a potentially acid-generating (PAG) waste rock dump. The Takshanuk Watershed Council (TWC) submitted comments on this permit application to the Alaska Departments of Environmental Conservation and Natural Resources (ADEC, ADNR), as well as to the Haines Borough.
View TWC's permit comments to ADEC and ADNR - May 2019
Of primary concern to TWC is the fact that once tunnel excavation begins, and wastewater starts flowing from the tunnel entrance, it will be very difficult to stop. There are ancient Roman mine sites in Britain, for example, that are still generating acid mine drainage today ( https://eic.rsc.org/feature/acid-mine-drainage-a-legacy-of-an-industrial-past/2020087.article ). Metals and other pollutants coming from a mine can negatively affect fish and other aquatic organisms in a variety of ways. Copper is particularly damaging to salmon because it impairs their ability to find their natal spawning grounds, and it also reduces the ability of juvenile fish to avoid predators. 
In its permit application documents, Constantine predicts that the water coming from their tunnel will not meet ADEC water quality standards, and the Waste Management Permit allows the discharge of those contaminants underground via a Land Application Disposal (LAD) system (see figure below). The ADEC Waste Management Permit is assuming that this contamination will disappear into the ground and will not enter surface or ground water. However, this assumption is not supported by the information provided by Constantine in their permit application. Due to the local geology, this contaminated water is likely to immediately enter both ground and surface water. When ground and surface waters are to be impacted by a wastewater discharge, then an Alaska Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (APDES) permit is required. In not acknowledging the likelihood of a discharge to water, ADEC is allowing Constantine to avoid the more thorough environmental review process of acquiring an APDES permit.
It is TWC’s position that discharge of wastewater to surface water is likely, and this contention is supported by the mining company’s own studies as presented in the permit application documents, therefore an APDES permit is required.
From Constantine Mining's Phase 2 Plan of Operations

More than 200 public comments were submitted during the comment period which closed on May 30. In July, ADEC issued the Waste Management Permit, ADNR approved the Reclamation Plan, and the Alaska Mental Health Trust approved the Phase 2 Plan of Operations. A request for agency review of the ADEC permit was filed by a number of individuals and organizations and is currently in process. Constantine has suspended operations for the remainder of the 2019 season.
View TWC's request for agency review - July 2019
From Constantine Mining's Phase 2 Plan of Operations

Support for this project has been provided by:
               Chilkat Indian Village
               National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
               The Charlotte Martin Foundation
Pullen Creek Gets a Facelift
Pullen Creek is a spring-fed salmon stream that flows through the heart of Skagway, Alaska. In 2006, a roughened channel was constructed downstream of Congress Way to help migrating salmon get through a perched culvert (think of a perched culvert as a small waterfall and a roughened channel as an access ramp). Over the years, high flows removed small rocks in the channel exposing landscaping cloth and eliminating salmon spawning habitat and places for insects to live. Last spring, SAWC and a few hearty workers with the Taiya Inlet Watershed Council replaced the missing rocks with a mix a sand, gravel, and cobbles to restore the streambed in time for the pink salmon run this summer. Check out a video on Facebook.

Taiya Inlet Watershed Council is a partnership between the Skagway Traditional Council and SAWC. Many thanks to outgoing Taiya Inlet Coordinator Nicole Kovacs, and a welcome to Reuben Cash, Skagway Traditional Council’s new Environmental Coordinator.