Mike Rustay walks through a section of a log jam that has piled up along a break in the levy at Bob Heirman Wildlife Preserve at Thomas’ Eddy on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Mike Rustay walks through a section of a log jam that has piled up along a break in the levy at Bob Heirman Wildlife Preserve at Thomas’ Eddy on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

To build a healthier Snohomish River, more log jams

About $2.8M in grants will help engineer log jams, tear down levees and promote salmon restoration at Bob Heirman Wildlife Preserve.

SNOHOMISH — Mike Rustay likes log jams, for good reason.

“We like log jams especially along the edge of the river,” said Rustay, senior habitat specialist with Snohomish County. “They provide a lot of fish habitat, a little natural roughness.”

About 3½ miles south of Snohomish, a path meanders alongside the levee at Bob Heirman Wildlife Preserve alongside Thomas’ Eddy. At this point, it’s well worn into the ground.

Anglers use it to access the Snohomish River and the path ends in a jumbled mess of old logs at a breech in the levee. It is just the type of barrier Snohomish County and the state Fish and Wildlife Office would like to see more of. Before European settlement, the river was full of log jams and snags.

Through a NOAA-funded grant, a cohort of nonprofit environmental group as well as local and state protection agencies, received money for river and tidal restoration. Snohomish County was awarded $2.8 million for three: Thomas’ Eddy, Shinglebolt Slough and Chinook Marsh.

The piled-up, dead logs across the trail illustrate what the project aims to do.

A primary concern, historically, for loggers was to remove as many obstacles as possible so logs could float down the river. Agricultural use demanded levees to help with flood control, which changed the look of the riverbanks.

In many places, the river looks more like an engineered canal than a natural river. By taking down levees, engineering log jams and reconnecting channels, a more natural river can flourish.

“Baby salmon just love to hang out under those woodpiles,” Rustay said.

Log jams give salmon places to hide from predators. For the river to naturally revert to having snags and jams, it would take decades.

The Snohomish River turns along the edge of the Bob Heirman Wildlife Preserve at Thomas’ Eddy on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Snohomish River turns along the edge of the Bob Heirman Wildlife Preserve at Thomas’ Eddy on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Instead, workers tie logs together, often with hemp rope, and set the bundles along the river. Rustay said the local boating community is being kept in mind with this construction and their locations may actually make the river more navigable.

“It’s gonna take 100 years before we get those trees again,” Rustay said. “In the meantime, we have to patch that function in the river system.”

Creating better stream habitat is an important part of the salmon puzzle as many fish are lost before they ever reach adulthood. The river runs too fast. Water had already chopped into many parts of the levee over the years.

“One of the selling points of this project: The county is not going to put a ton of money into a levee that’s not really protecting anything,” Rustay said. “When you have these small breeches (in the levee) you end up with really extreme velocities during floods and it just ends up being a log vacuum cleaner.”

Those log jams are good, but they can also destroy riverside trails. Once the levee is removed and reclamation work begins on riverbanks, a new trail will likely be offset from its current location.

Work is ready to begin on parts of Thomas’ Eddy and Shinglebolt Slough. Plans call for 3,685 feet of levee removal at Thomas’ Eddy. Upgrades planned for Shinglebolt Slough include removal of bridge remnants, as well as channel reconnecting work.

“It’s a really exciting time to be working in the watershed,” said Gretchen Glaub, lead entity coordinator for Snohomish Basin. “A lot of these projects have been on the backburner, really since the ’90s when salmon were first listed as endangered and it really seemed like an opportunity to accelerate what we’re doing.”

The 2021 federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is responsible for much of the funding for these projects. This round of grants — like many of those used for Whidbey Basin improvements — is handled by the state government through the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The projects affect all phases of the salmon lifecycle up and down the watershed.

“The role of the Department of Fish and Wildlife in this grant was, essentially, cat herder,” said Lindsey Desmul, a restoration project coordinator with the state. “Sometimes when a lot of funding comes our way, it needs even more collaboration to get everyone wrangled and putting forth one application.”

Through various collaborative efforts, the hope is a healthier river might emerge. Visitors to the Bob Heirman preserve might one day see the river in its more natural state. They might just see some salmon, too.

“When the system like this is really constrained, because there’s levee’s blocking the floodplain, it becomes a chute that just shoots (the salmon) out of the river,” Glaub said. “Giving the river room to move, side channels, slower moving water and shade is really important.”

Jordan Hansen: 425-339-3046; jordan.hansen@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jordyhansen.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Chap Grubb, founder and CEO of second-hand outdoor gear store Rerouted, stands inside his new storefront on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Gold Bar, Washington. Rerouted began as an entirely online shop that connected buyers and sellers of used gear.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Used outdoor gear shop Rerouted finds a niche in Gold Bar

Seeking to keep good outdoor gear out of landfills, an online reselling business has put down roots in Gold Bar.

Naval Station Everett. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Everett man sentenced to 6 years for cyberstalking ex-wife

Christopher Crawford, 42, was found guilty of sending intimate photos of his ex-wife to adult websites and to colleagues in the Navy.

Most Read