Building a pool, increasing salmon yield in Lena Beach

By: Paul Robbins Jr.

 

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JUNEAU, Alaska – After a large storm battered the fish ladder of Picnic Creek in the fall of 2016, Forest Service biologists were concerned the structural damage could prevent adult salmon from being able to navigate the ladder.

This would be harmful to the ecosystem supporting the Lena Beach Recreation Area, a popular site just 17 miles from downtown Juneau. Using a weir, a structure to block fish passages in order to count fish moving upstream or downstream, biologists captured more than 8,000 pink fry from the creek last spring.

“Small stream systems (like Picnic Creek) can actually produce a lot of pink salmon, we just need to make sure that we can keep them functional,” said Barbara Adams, a fisheries biologist for the Juneau Ranger District, Tongass National Forest.

To ensure the fish ladder remained functional and fish could navigate upstream, Tongass fisheries personnel obtained a permit and the help of an employee from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game to repair the damage. Joined by interns from the Student Conservation Association, the group spent July 5th and 6th constructing a temporary dam with 200 gravel bags.

The dam created a deep jump pool, which salmon need to enter the fish ladder in order to spawn in Picnic Creek.

“For now, we want our communities to know the restoration project is coming and not to remove the temporary dam, or impede the jump pool for migrating salmon,” said Adams.

The temporary repair is meant to hold until the permanent restoration work begins, scheduled for 2018 under the Lena Beach Renovation Project. Engineers hired by the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition completed a plan for a bridge and stream bank redesign that will allow salmon to continue to utilize the area. Full passage for aquatic organisms is expected to be restored after the construction and restoration projects.