Logs create new salmon hideaway

SULTAN – Juvenile salmon trying to grow up in a side channel of the Sultan River now have a place to hide until they get big enough to swim to sea.

And to tiny salmon, the place is huge.

A helicopter was used Wednesday to drop more than 60 logs and stumps into Winter’s Creek just west of town.

By crisscrossing the logs over the slow-moving stream, wildlife officials created a place for tiny salmon to avoid predators, including blue herons and cutthroat trout.

Just as important, the logs will dam the stream, creating slow-moving pools where the bugs the fish like to eat – caddis, May and stone flies – can thrive.

“It’s really going well,” Jan Holbrook said moments after a whirling Vietnam-era Huey dropped a bundle of logs 50 yards away.

Holbrook is a fish and wildlife technician for the Everett-based Adopt-A-Stream Foundation, which coordinated the log drop.

Moving the logs and planting about 2,000 trees and shrubs on the nearby banks was paid for by a $25,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and an $8,000 grant from the Fish America Foundation.

A crew of about 20 people helped a state Department of Natural Resources aerial firefighting crew haul the logs about 1,000 feet to the creek. The helicopter picked up 61 loads.

Tight quarters – both hooking up the logs and then dropping them on the tree-lined stream – created just the kind of challenge the DNR fire crew wanted

“We need training for the fire season,” said Dave Doan, a DNR aviation manager. “They need practice on flying through tight airspace.”

The helicopter’s swirling drafted knocked off the tops of many of poplar and cottonwood trees that line the creek, but that was still far less intrusive than using heavy equipment to drag the logs into the stream, Holbrook said.

In the coming days, cables will be wrapped around the logs and attached to anchors to hold them in place, creating habitat that will last until the trees rot away.

“The logs are great,” said Tom Murdoch, executive director of the Everett-based Adopt-A-Stream Foundation. “Most of them are cedar. They’ll last for 10 to 20 years.”

The side channel was almost barren before the logs were brought in, said Keith Binkley, a fish biologist who treks up and down the Sultan River often for Snohomish County PUD.

“Right now, it’s just uniform – almost like a desert,” Binkley said, adding that 10 to 15 years ago a prison work crew removed all of the logs from the stream.

The PUD provided the logs, which were pulled out of Spada Lake, the headwaters of the Sultan River.

Murdoch said chinook, coho, pink and chum salmon will use the habitat, especially chinook and coho, which can stay in the stream for six months to a year before migrating out to sea. Chinook are listed as threatened on the federal endangered species list.

Reporter Lukas Velush: 425-339-3449 or lvelush@heraldnet.com.

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