The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition inspires Southeast Alaskans and supports community organizations working toward the wise management of our region’s watersheds.
Field Notes - Winter 2020
Updates from SAWC & our partners in Southeast Alaska's communities:
Restoration Potential in the Mendenhall Wetlands
The Mendenhall Wetlands, extensive intertidal and estuarine wetlands between the Juneau mainland and Douglas Island, are a globally recognized Important Bird Area, an ecological hotspot in Southeast Alaska, and a treasured recreation area for Juneau.

These wetlands have been heavily impacted by urbanization and resource development over the years, leading to habitat degradation and fragmentation. The Watershed Coalition recently completed a restoration opportunity assessment for the area to identify sites that have been altered or degraded but have the potential to be restored.

We identified projects on several city, state, and private properties, and are already exploring some of these opportunities with the land owners and managers. We anticipate that this US Fish and Wildlife Service-funded assessment will lead to multiple wetland habitat restoration projects that reconnect and rehabilitate habitat for fish, native plants, and other wildlife in the Mendenhall Wetlands in the coming years.

The report can be found here.
Rob Cadmus and Rebecca Bellmore walk a channelized reach of salmon stream in the Mendenhall Wetlands.
New Release: Klawock Lake Sockeye Salmon Action Plan
Sockeye salmon from Klawock Lake have been important to the livelihood and culture of the people of Klawock, Craig, and Prince of Wales Island for millennia. Over the last two decades there have been significant declines in the number of fish returning to the Klawock Watershed, and a group of tribal, native corporation, government, non-profit, and private sector partners are working to reverse this decline. With support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and with facilitation and coordination from Kai Environmental, this group of stakeholders and community members has produced the Klawock Lake Sockeye Salmon Action Plan.   

The purpose of the Klawock Lake Sockeye Salmon Action Plan is to help guide landowners, stakeholders and the Klawock community in promoting healthy and sustainable sockeye salmon populations in Klawock Lake for local communities.

Despite just being completed, this plan has already resulted in on-the ground action, harvest and hatchery management projects, and community engagement. A copy of the plan is available by contacting SAWC, and the final version will be on our website by the end of the month.   

Protecting Salmon from Bad Plants
Invasive knotweed lines the banks of the Cedar River, a salmon stream near Seattle (credit: King County).
$120 billion! That’s the cost incurred by the U.S. economy from the impacts of non-native invasive plants. In Alaska, these plants threaten a billion-dollar salmon industry by out-competing and displacing native plants that help sustain our salmon populations. SAWC recently received funding from the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund to control four invasive plant species invading salmon habitat in the City and Borough of Juneau (CBJ). These bad actors are Bohemian knotweed, reed canarygrass, European mountain ash, and European bird cherry. The latter three species are solidly established on the banks of several salmon streams in the CBJ. By acting now, we’re going to make sure these plants don’t take over Juneau’s salmon watersheds like they have in salmon watersheds down south. Our control efforts will begin this spring and continue through the end of 2022.

SAWC would like to thank our partners on this project: Alaska Department of Fish and Game Habitat Division, The Leighty Foundation, and the Tongass Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Watershed Science
Hot Off The Press: Streamflow patterns across the coastal Gulf of Alaska.
The amount and the timing of high and low stream flows are important to monitor because we depend on reliable streamflow for drinking water, hydroelectric power, and healthy fish populations. In this newly released study, SAWC and our partners used modeled stream flow data for coastal watersheds across the Gulf of Alaska to categorize different types of streams based on the amount, variability, and timing of streamflow throughout the year. We identified 13 unique streamflow patterns among 4,140 coastal streams, reflecting different contributions of rain, snow, and glacial ice. This new catalog of streamflow patterns will allow scientists to assess changes in streamflow over time and their impact to humans and other organisms that depend on freshwater.

Christopher J. Sergeant , Jeffrey A. Falke , Rebecca A. Bellmore , J. Ryan Bellmore , Ryan L. Crumley (2020) A classification of streamflow patterns across the coastal Gulf of Alaska, Water Resources Research , .
Stream Temperature and Climate Refugia in Subsistence Salmon Watersheds
Derek Poinsette, Rebecca Bellmore, Johnny Gamble, and Daniel Klanott (left to right) download stream temperature data from Herman Creek near Klukwan, AK.
As climate change brings warmer temperatures, more rain, and less snow to our region, our salmon streams are expected to warm. The Watershed Coalition was recently awarded a grant from the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund to characterize current stream temperature patterns within stream networks and lakes – particularly focusing on sockeye watersheds. The Watershed Coalition will be working with agency, university, tribal, and NGO partners in Haines, Sitka, Tenakee Springs, Klawock, and Juneau to collect stream temperature data over the next two years. We will be using this new data, as well as data that have been collected over the previous decade, to explore how climate change might affect stream temperatures and thermal refugia for salmon.
Local Foods Program : Project updates
The Local Foods Program launched 2020 with new projects and planting the seeds of new work for the coming year. Mostly we have been finalizing our work under the USDA Local Food Promotion Program which funded Salt & Soil, two Farmers Summits, a farmers educational exchange, targeted assistance to direct market fishermen, and the recently published Resource Guide for Direct Market Fishermen . The final activities under this grant is a targeted local food system assessment in selected SEAK communities. We are consulting with community stakeholders to collect accurate information that will empower communities with a snapshot of their food system and in-depth information they can use to support future projects. We are working with local entities to complete assessments in Haines, Hoonah, Gustavus, Petersburg, Kake, and Yakutat.
Salt & Soil Marketplace
Salt & Soil will continue to operate year round in Juneau even with the end of our grant funding! This is thanks in large part to a partnership with Panhandle Produce and several cost cutting measures. But while Juneau is able to support itself financially we will be closing Haines and Sitka for the time being. We hope that with increased in person sales during the summer we may be able to reopen them. That would require increased vendor or community support in getting them started again.
Farmers Market Promotion
Photo credit Kylie Wray / Juneau Saturday Markets
The SAWC Local Food Program was awarded a 3-year Farmers Market Promotion Program grant that will support SEAK farmers markets and farmers with marketing, marketing materials, and training. One deliverable will be the formation of Southeast Alaska Farmers Market Network. We will collaborate with Spruce Root to create a school curriculum to guide students and community members in the basics of planning a food business and other business management skills. Other activities under the grant include a Local Foods Challenge that is being designed by participating communities, and helping farmers to diversify their customer base by outreaching to low-income customers.
Farmers Market Manager Interviews
To kickoff the Farmers Market Promotion activities, we interviewed 5 farmers markets in Southeast Alaska. Big takeaways from that include that most markets are stable and would greatly benefit from additional training and marketing support. Some markets are entirely volunteer run, but most have at least a dedicated market manager position. Produce sales for these markets are diverse as well, with some selling no local produce (just crafts and baked goods) and on the average about 15% of vendors were produce sellers. Salt & Soil Marketplace is the only exception to this where we actually have a much higher percentage of produce sellers due to the online nature of our market and focus on being a regional food hub. 89% of our vendors are selling local food, and of those around 45% are produce sellers.
Current and potential economic impact of commercial mushroom cultivation in Southeast Alaska
SAWC has previously released a report on the economic impact of locally-grown produce in Southeast Alaska and Juneau . We are building off this work by studying the economic potential for commercial mushroom cultivation in Southeast Alaska. With support from a USDA Specialty Crop grant, we will conduct a feasibility study on the current and potential economic impact of commercial mushroom cultivation in Southeast Alaska. Findings from the study will be published and available to the public in fall of 2020. The report will inform potential mushroom producers and increase their chances of starting a successful business in Southeast Alaska.
Takshanuk Watershed Council- Stream Restoration Projects
Although it’s still winter, staff at the Takshanuk Watershed Council (TWC) in Haines are preparing for the summer field season, which includes fish habitat improvement projects. Thanks to funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, TWC will complete the removal of two barriers to fish passage on local streams.
Kelsall Road Culvert Replacement
TWC conducted assessments of 37 culverts in the Haines Borough. Twenty-eight were identified as impeding fish passage. We prioritized culvert replacement based on the amount of upstream habitat these fish passage barriers were cutting off. We are now checking off the list, with a number of the highest priority culverts having been replaced.

This Kelsall Road culvert lies in an unnamed tributary to the Kelsall River. The culvert is too steep and is perched ( waterfall at the end of the culvert ) 17 inches, causing it to be classified as "red," which is high priority for replacement. The stream contains rearing habitat and a some spawning gravel. TWC staff documented the presence of juvenile Coho salmon, Dolly Varden, and steelhead trout just below the culvert; and only two small steelhead trout above. 

Next steps: In the coming months, TWC staff will survey the stream and plan out construction. The culvert will be replaced during early summer, and we will then rehabilitate the impacted stream and repair and rebuild the roadway. By late summer, work will be completed and fish passage restored, creating an additional 310 meters of spring-fed stream available for fish use.
Seven Echoes Homestead Failed Crossing Structure Removal and Mink Creek Stream Rehabilitation
Mink Creek empties into the tidal flats of Mud Bay south of Haines on the Chilkat Peninsula. It supports Coho salmon, Dolly Varden, steelhead, and cutthroat trout. A small roadway and crossing structure was built 50 years ago when the property was first homesteaded. The roadway is now only used for pedestrian access to the tidal flats, and the property is protected by a conservation easement. The roadway crossing has collapsed into the stream banks and is constricting stream flow and blocking fish passage.

This summer, TWC will:
  1. Remove the failed crossing and associated road bed.
  2. Construct and install a timber pedestrian bridge.
  3. Rehabilitate and restore the impacted stream reach.
  4. Monitor project site for 5 years.
For both projects, TWC will involve the local community through environmental education and outreach initiatives; student volunteers in local schools as well as in the community will be sought to help revegetate stream banks after construction has been completed.
Taiya Inlet Watershed Council
Salmon in the Classroom, Skagway 2020
Salmon in the Classroom aquarium cold water circulation in a bathtub
While it looks like "Salmon in the Bathroom," this is actually a testament to Skagway’s incredibly clean city water and an example of innovation in a pinch. Days before receiving hatchery eggs for the school program, the TIWC aquarium chiller took a turn for the worse. It would take weeks to ship a new unit, and staff needed a way to keep temperatures cold and the water clean. At 7 °C and lacking chlorine, city water piped through a garden hose and allowed to spill over the aquarium top into a bathtub drain kept hundreds of salmon eggs healthy and happy. All but four hatched into alevins, and many weeks later they are safe in the halls of Skagway School with a new chiller and five grades of elementary students as caretakers. Fifth grade is learning about water quality by testing samples for temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH and nitrogen. Third grade has been trained to use dichotomous keys to identify both juvenile and spawning salmon. And K-2 are being taught the many life stages of salmon through art activities, fun videos, animated presentations, and even a sing-along salmon life stages song. The remainder of this year’s curriculum will focus on habitat restoration, the dangers of farmed fish, and salmon success stories from around the Pacific Coast. TIWC would like to thank Bernie Warchuck and Skagway Traditional Council for making this year’s Salmon in the Classroom possible!