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 2021
Updates from SAWC & our partners in Southeast Alaska's communities.
Healthy Watersheds
Taking Action at Jordan Creek
To address the impacts of urbanization on Jordan Creek, SAWC maps road, streets, and parking lots to understand where stormwater originates (polygons) and where it flows into the stream (circles).

Just in time for spring, SAWC is putting the final touches on an action plan for the Lower Jordan Creek watershed in Juneau. 

Decades of land development in the lower watershed (between Egan Drive and the airport) has negatively impacted this urban salmon stream. In most places the riparian zone has been altered or eliminated, invasive plants are taking over, and stormwater runoff carries harmful pollutants to the stream with every rain and snowmelt event. To inform a plan for getting Jordan Creek off Alaska’s impaired water body list, SAWC has been mapping stormwater infrastructure, monitoring water and sediment quality, and measuring pollutant levels in the stream and stormwater runoff. Our studies indicate streambed sediments contain too much silt and clay and not enough gravels, leading to low oxygen levels where aquatic insects live and salmon eggs incubate. Worse yet, the fine sediments contain harmful levels of zinc, copper, and lead as well polyaromatic hydrocarbons, all of which likely originate from vehicles and are carried to the stream in sediment-laden stormwater runoff. 

The good news is stormwater pollution can be treated to remove pollutants and landowners can restore riparian areas. We have spent the last 4 years getting to know landowners in the lower watershed and will partner with them to put our new plan in action starting this year. Expect to see a stormwater bioretention cell near the Nugget Mall, a wet biofiltration swale in the Lower Jordan Creek Greenbelt, and a restored riparian zone on a former parking area near Jordan Creek Center. Crest Street will be getting a facelift that includes stormwater management elements, too.

SAWC would like to thank the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for providing technical and financial support through the Alaska Clean Water Actions program. Additional funding for our work on Jordan Creek has been provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Crew Leader Needed to Restore Klawock Sockeye Habitat

This coming summer, we will be restoring sockeye salmon streams in the Klawock Lake watershed that were damaged by riparian logging. A work crew will be using hand tools like winches, chainsaws, and picks to place large woody debris into streams that lack the complex fish habitat found in unlogged watershed.

The Klawock Cooperative Association will house a work crew, and Klawock Heenya, Shaan Seet, and the Prince of Wales Tribal Conservation District have all contributed through trainings, allowing access, recruitment, and in many other ways. SAWC partnered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and a generous private donor to secure the funds for this project, and we will also provide the technical oversight for the project.

The Klawock Cooperative Association is now recruiting a crew leader to supervise the work crew. We are looking for someone responsible and ready to do the hard work of restoration. An ideal candidate will be from Prince of Wales Island with deep connections to the Klawock Lake Watershed.

Contact us for more information.
Training: Stream Restoration Using Hand Tools Techniques
With the support of the National Forest Foundation and the technical expertise of the US Forest Service, SAWC is sponsoring a training on the use of hand tools and work crews to restore in-stream fish habitat in streams that lack large woody debris because of riparian logging. The Hoonah Native Forest Partnership will be sending some experienced crew members to help share lessons learned.
Students will learn to identify appropriate sites, how to plan restoration, and how to safely implement restoration by felling or tipping trees using winches and chainsaws and then manipulating the trees into place using winches and hand tools.

The training is for crew leaders or biologist planning the restoration work. We are reserving the limited space in the training for organizations that are actively planning work crews within the next few years. The training is tentatively scheduled for the 1st week of May in Klawock.

Contact us to learn more and participate.
Juneau's Fish Creek Estuary--Changes Over Time
SAWC identified possible restoration opportunities at Juneau’s Fish Creek Estuary when we conducted the Mendenhall Wetlands Restoration Opportunity Assessment. Now, we have been working with Richard Carstensen, Southeast Alaska’s naturalist guru, to help assess what level of restoration is possible at Fish Creek. Click the picture to see imagery that Richard dug up. It shows how human activity has drastically changed the Fish Creek Estuary over time.
Spatial Data is Here -- SAWC and SEAKFHP build ESRI Data library for Southeast Alaska
SAWC is a partner in the Southeast Alaska Fish Habitat Partnership. At the end of 2020, SEAKFHP began constructing an ESRI group to collect, organize, and distribute data to partner organizations across Southeast Alaska. 

New staff member at SAWC, Khrystl Brouillette, began helping with this effort in November 2020. She is a recent graduate from the Geography and Environmental Resources program at the University of Alaska Southeast and interned with SAWC in 2019. 

The library was constructed by sharing data sources already publicly available in ArcGIS online to SEAKFHP’s user group. ESRI users can become group members to directly use data contained in the group and add their own datasets to be shared with other partner organizations. 

This effort was influenced by the Southeast Alaska GIS Library (SEAKGIS), a once vibrant spatial data resource now victimized by budget cuts. SEAKFHP’s ESRI user group pulls in many of the datasets once available in the SEAKGIS Library. Over the past few months, Khrystl has been reaching out to various data providers, like The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Alaska, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to repair datasets that, overtime, became corrupted. 

Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission provides fiscal and technical support for SEAKFHP’s ESRI site. This support will allow SEAKFHP’s library to be maintained and supported for many years to come. 

The group currently contains over 220 different data items, with frequent additions. Item formats include: feature layers, downloadable shapefiles, document links, web maps, web mapping applications, imagery layers, and more. Items are categorized for easy, pointed browsing, and global search navigation allows for broader searches without sifting through everything on ArcGIS online. 

An ArcGIS Hub site is currently under development to make browsing, searching, and using the data easier for users. Additionally, Khrystl has been working to build web applications to be used as decision support tools to quickly view and compare key datasets.

SEAKFHP’s user group can be found at For more information, or to be added to the group, email Khrystl at
Takshanuk Watershed Council
Monitoring Stream Temperature in the Chilkat and Chilkoot Watersheds
The crystal ball may be hazy in a changing climate, but one thing is certain: salmon survival is linked to water temperature. 

Salmon are poikilotherms, meaning that their body temperature is determined by the ambient water temperature. Because of this, salmon depend on a fairly consistent range of temperature. As the climate changes in Alaska, salmon are more frequently exposed to conditions that affect migration, feeding, growth, reproduction, incubation, etc. Even when conditions are not lethal, they can cause stress and ultimately inhibit reproduction and long-term survival. You might imagine it’s like spending the busiest time of year with a constant low-grade fever.

The Takshanuk Watershed Council (TWC) is committed to helping local salmon populations thrive for all of the reasons – no need to list them… if you live here you know. That’s why we, along with Chilkat Indian Village and Chilkoot Indian Association, teamed up with the Southeast Alaska Stream Temperature Monitoring Network (coordinated by SAWC) in 2016 to monitor select sites in the Chilkat and Chilkoot watersheds. Through this network, our data will contribute to a broader picture of the thermal landscape in Southeast Alaska. This information will help managers develop targeted conservation strategies to protect valuable habitat, enhance degraded habitat, and strengthen the resiliency of imperiled species. 
The data are rolling in!
TWC currently monitors 11 sites where in-stream temperature is recorded every half an hour. The loggers are swapped out each fall and spring to make sure operations are running smoothly and to access data. While we can learn a lot from this information, the dataset is massive and cumbersome. After many hours at the computer and endless cups of coffee, TWC staff biologist Stacie Evans has put the data to work and produced results. 
Surprising outcomes...or maybe not?
After reviewing the data, we were interested to find that some parts of the Chilkat and Chilkoot watersheds are already experiencing temperatures above optimal for salmon survival. The Lower Chilkoot and Lower Kelsall data loggers, for example, recorded the highest temperatures of all sites: a whopping 18.4˚C (65˚F) on July 6, 2019 in the Chilkoot, and 17.8˚C (64˚F) on July 5, 2019 in the Kelsall.  
Because water temperature plays a vital role in the health of aquatic resources, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) adopted maximum temperature limits for aquatic life:
Any time                          May not exceed 20˚C
Migration routes           May not exceed 15°C
Rearing areas                 May not exceed 15°C    
Spawning areas             May not exceed 13°C
        Egg and fry incubation May not exceed 13°C

The Chilkoot, Kelsall, Mink Creek, and Jones Point sites periodically exceeded both the 13˚C and 15˚C limits, while the Little Salmon and 14-Mile sites exceeded the 13˚C limit.
Streams such as Herman Creek and Clear Creek, on the other hand, are tempered by groundwater and are therefore less affected by air temperature. If Alaska continues to experience hotter summers, these waterbodies may become extremely important as “thermal refugia” for salmon. This means that these cooler streams could continue to provide suitable habitat and deliver a certain degree of resiliency in the face of climate change.  
There is work to be done.
Once thermal patterns are established for specific waterbodies, managers can take a more nuanced approach to conservation. For example, one strategy might involve a multi-pronged approach to improve access for salmon to cold-water refugia, while protecting or restoring riparian habitat to shade warmer streams. The solutions will range from simple to complex, but the bottom line is that land and wildlife managers must now consider the additive effects of climate change when making conservation decisions. Datasets like this will help develop the most efficient strategies to tackle these multifaceted problems.  
Taiya Inlet Watershed Council
Stream Temperature
In partnership with Skagway Traditional Council (STC), Taiya Inlet Watershed Council (TIWC) expanded its stream temperature monitoring network to include a sensor in the upper Skagway River watershed. The location of this new site is much more remote than other stations, and although the Klondike Highway is less than a mile away the road is nearly one thousand feet above. Staff worked with the National Park Service to identify a relict Gold Rush-era wagon road following the valley floor and used GIS to create a digital map for field crew orienteering. In late September STC and TIWC staff made their way upriver along the Brackett Wagon Road, surveyed for a suitable location, measured temperature transects, and installed the logger with a PVC housing. The new station expands monitoring on the Skagway River to include lower, middle, and upper reaches of the watershed.  
Reuben Cash installing the newest Hobo stream temperature logger in the upper Skagway River.
Salmon in the Classroom
Inside the coho salmon tank for Salmon in the Classrooms. The tank is kept dark to project the eggs and alevin salmon. A 30 second exposure give a view of the pink alevin resting on the blue substrate.
TIWC is partnering with STC to bring another year of fishy fun to Skagway School students! The pink salmon run in Pullen Creek was very poor this year, so genetics for seeding the tank came once again from Douglas Island Pink and Chum in Juneau. Eyed coho eggs were shipped to Skagway in early January. Due to COVID and concerns about access to the aquarium for regular maintenance, the tank is being housed at the STC Tribal Community Center and all lessons are being delivered virtually. This has presented a few challenges. 

One of the central benefits of Salmon in the Classroom to students is the ability to watch the progression of salmon life stages, which is difficult to accommodate when the aquarium is located outside the school. Staff has been using a GoPro camera to capture long-exposure images inside the tank and gathering these photos into daily time lapses, which are then posted online for students to view and make observations. The tank is kept under a cover during the egg and alevin stages since light is harmful to salmon in early life, and the long exposure time allows us to see in the dark. Once the coho button up and the cover is removed, daily videos will replace the time lapses.

Virtual lessons facilitate a disconnect between students and educators, but there are some nifty tools available to bridge the gap. TIWC and STC have been using Mentimeter for 3rd – 5th grades, an online app that allows the presenter to interact with participants through quizzes, polls, Q&A, and other fun features. It’s been a hit with students and especially effective for classroom discussions where critical thinking skills are employed. Staff has created instructional videos to augment the in-person lessons covering tank seeding, water changes, filter maintenance, and other technical aspects of the program. A dissection video is in the works, along with recorded visits to local salmon fry hot spots. K-2 is learning about a new life stage each week with fun animated presentations and the (soon-to-be) famous Salmon Song. 3rd grade is learning how to keep a quality observation journal, use a dichotomous key to identify juvenile salmonids and stream bugs, and other more advanced salmon concepts. 4th graders have been designated as the program’s temperature specialists, charged with monitoring accumulated thermal units and predicting when the salmon will move into each new life stage (we predicted the alevin hatch to within a few days!). 5th grade is helping monitor water quality in the tank, offering students a chance to practice laboratory skills and get a glimpse into the world of chemistry.
Local Foods
Food Catalyst Fellowship --- Apply now!
The Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, and Spruce Root are thrilled to launch a six month-long fellowship designed to bring together Southeast Alaskans who are interested in catalyzing projects to promote food security and food sovereignty in rural Alaska Native communities.

A cohort of up to six fellows will receive training in business and project planning, form connections with regional experts, and will be eligible to receive up to $15,000 in funding to support their projects. 

Hoonah Food Assessment
SAWC’s local food program and the Sustainable Southeast Partnership collaborated with the Hoonah Stewardship Council and Hoonah Indian Association’s Environmental Department to initiate a targeted community food system assessment in winter of 2019 and spring 2020. The assessment gathered specific information about prioritized sectors of Hoonah’s food system as identified by the HSC.

 A comprehensive report and recommendations summary are posted on HIA’s environmental page, Click here.
Transportation Barriers and Recommendations For Local Food Production
In late 2020, the SAWC local foods program published a report, Transportation Barriers and Recommendations: Lessons learned from building a food hub in Southeast Alaska, that is available and downloadable from the SAWC website, here.

The paper draws on lessons from the Salt and Soil Marketplace as a case study to examine the specific barriers, costs, and recommendations for improving transportation options for the region’s vegetable producers.
In 2020, the Salt and Soil Marketplace offered vendors and customers a safe, socially-distant way to support local food producers in Southeast Alaska. The marketplace was hugely successful in its ability to expand and adapt to changes in light of Covid, and as such attracted new customers and vendors alike. One of the most successful collaborations was the Juneau Community Gardens transitioning their May plant sale to the marketplace. This saw a significant number of new patrons joining the marketplace and offered highly valued items that folks hadn’t previously had access to through the marketplace. 

For the months of February and March, the Salt and Soil Marketplace will be offering a once-a-month distribution, opening for online shopping the last week of the month with a distribution/pick-up on the last Saturday of the month. We are looking forward to transitioning the mission of Salt & Soil to focus more on local food education, outreach, and networking – transforming Salt &Soil into a resource hub for all things local food in Southeast. In the meanwhile, the team will be planning upgrades for the Marketplace and seeking sponsorships for the 2021 market season.

More information can be found at