Sitka Conservation Society

Natural river system where large wood in the stream creates habitat for rearing juvenile salmon

The Sitka Conservation Society, Trout Unlimited, and the US Forest Service, in conjunction with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Sustainable Salmon Fund, are committed to a salmon habitat restoration program on the Sitkoh River. A construction contract was awarded in 2011. In-stream work will begin in Spring 2012 and be completed by mid-Summer.

The Issue

Past logging and road-building practices compromised watershed function and salmon habitat in the Sitkoh River Valley. A recent analysis conducted by The Nature Conservancy and the Forest Service identified the Sitkoh River as one of the seven highest priority watersheds for restoration on the Tongass National Forest. In public forums the community of Sitka has consistently stated that restoration in the Sitkoh area is a high priority, particularly for coho salmon and steelhead spawning and rearing habitat. The Trout Unlimited Alaska Program has also identified the Sitkoh River as one of its 25 Restoration Priority areas.

The main channel of Sitkoh River, without water. This project will restore flow to this section and provide access to additional habitat

The Solution

This Joint Watershed Restoration Project will restore two ecologically significant sections of the Sitkoh River. The project establishes a working partnership among community, state, and federal entities for ecological restoration on the Tongass National Forest. SCS plans to replicate these efforts in areas that have the highest ecological value and are defined by stakeholders as high priorities for restoration.

Phase one

This phase will restore 1,800 feet of critical salmon rearing habitat. In this section of the river, the flow has diverted down an adjacent logging road, making it shallow and wide with no pool habitat. The diverted river flows through previously harvested areas that are covered with alder and lack large conifers that would someday fall into the stream and provide fish habitat. If left alone, the diverted segment of the Sitkoh River will most likely continue to widen and erode the unstable roadbed. This will continue to impede fish passage at high and low flow periods, increase the risk of juvenile salmon mortality in the winter, and further degrade habitat downstream.

Most of Sitkoh River now flows down an old logging road

Phase one will restore Sitkoh River to its original stream channel location. Portions of the stream channel will be reconstructed to create self-maintaining pools and riffles, restore hydrologic function, and inhibit future diversions to the road. This will allow trees along the banks to grow large and serve as future sources of woody debris.

Phase two

This section is downstream of phase one. Logging down to the stream edge removed future sources of large wood to the stream. Phase two will add large wood structures. The goal is to improve salmon spawning gravels, create pool habitat, and provide control structures to reduce erosion/sedimentation and stabilize stream banks. With the funding provided by SCS, TU, and ADFG for phase one, the Forest Service will be able to commit additional resources to phase two of this project.

More Information

Check back regularly for updates!

Take the Google Earth Tour below to see a birds-eye view and photos of the project area. You must have Google Earth installed on your computer for the virtual tour to work. If the tour gets stopped, just click “EXIT TOUR” and navigate on your own!

Related Posts:

  • Back to Basics: An Alaskan Wilderness Experience

    Back to Basics: An Alaskan Wilderness Experience

    Almost three months have already gone by since I started my internship with the Sitka Conservation Society, under the supervision of Scott Harris, the Conservation Science Director at SCS. It is now the start of September and I cannot believe how fast time flies by when I am truly enjoying my eye-opening opportunity. It still feels [...]

    Read more →

  • Sitka: A Tongass Salmon Town

    Sitka: A Tongass Salmon Town

    In 2011, SCS began the Sitka Salmon Tours program.  The goal of the tours was to give visitors a salmon’s eye view from the forests where the salmon are born, to the ocean, the fisher and processor, and finally to our plates.  We’ve discontinued the Salmon Tours for 2013.  Instead, we have distilled all of [...]

    Read more →

  • America’s Salmon Forest at the AK Forum Film Fest

    America’s Salmon Forest at the AK Forum Film Fest

    SCS’s short documentary Restoring America’s Salmon Forest was selected to show at the Alaska Forum on the Environment Film Festival on Friday, February 8, 2013 in Anchorage.  The film focuses on a multi-agency effort to increase salmon returns on the Sitkoh River in Southeast Alaska’s Chichagof Island, by improving the spawning and rearing habitat and [...]

    Read more →

  • My Alaskan Experience: Nora McGinn

    My Alaskan Experience: Nora McGinn

    Nora McGinn is a Junior in the Environmental Studies program at Knox College in Illinois.      

    Read more →

  • Angoon Watershed Crew reconnects with the Sitkoh River

    Angoon Watershed Crew reconnects with the Sitkoh River

    Surveying salmon streams on the Tongass National Forest is no easy task – it involves lugging heavy survey gear, tripods, marking stakes, and other gear through dense young growth forests and wading up to our hips in frigid water.  Last month, Scott Harris, Watershed Program Manager for the Sitka Conservation Society, worked with the Angoon [...]

    Read more →

  • Meet the Staff

    Meet the Staff

    Click here to hear Natalia, Ray, and Courtney on Raven Radio’s Morning Interview Sitka Conservation Society staffers Natalia Povelite (Tongass salmon organizer), Ray Friedlander (Tongass forest organizer), and Courtney Bobsin (Jesuit Volunteer, Fish-to-Schools) discuss their respective projects, and why they chose to work in Sitka.

    Read more →

  • Sitka, AK – Where Theory Meets Practice

    Sitka, AK – Where Theory Meets Practice

    In July of 2012, thirteen undergraduate students from Knox College embarked on a 15-day wilderness expedition into the wilds of Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.  The trip was part of a semester long course entitled “Alaska: Forest, Fisheries, and the Politics of Wilderness”.  The course entailed an in-depth study of the history of natural resource [...]

    Read more →

  • Restoring Salmon Habitat at Sitkoh Lake

    Restoring Salmon Habitat at Sitkoh Lake

    Much has changed at Sitkoh Lake since the late 1970’s.  What was once an epicenter for industrial logging is now a center of activity for forest and watershed restoration.  During the summer of 2012, the Sitka District of the United States Forest Service (USFS) went into the Sitkoh Lake Watershed to restore tributary streams and [...]

    Read more →

  • Restoring America’s Salmon Forest

    Restoring America’s Salmon Forest

    What comes to mind when you hear the term conservation? Petitions, polar bears, politicians, researchers? David Attenborough? Did heavy equipment tearing up a rainforest floor come to mind? Unlikely. Nestled deep within our earth’s largest temperate rainforest- conservation takes unique form. This summer, the Sitkoh River Restoration Project mobilized a team of heavy equipment operators [...]

    Read more →

  • The Sitkoh River Restoration Project Begins!

    The Sitkoh River Restoration Project Begins!

    Sitkoh River Restoration Begins! The Sitkoh River Salmon Habitat Restoration Project got started last week.  SCS staff, Trout Unlimited Alaska, local high school students, and other volunteers have been helping work at the site alongside contractors and Forest Service staff.  On Wednesday June 13th, the crew hosted a fly-in visit by journalists, fishermen, and the [...]

    Read more →

Follow Us
Get Updates
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Newsletter and updates

Take Action Now
Take Action

Keep up to date on all of the issues. Check out "The Southeaster" Blog.

  • Hungry for Huckleberry Pie, Venison Stew, or Fresh Greens? Come to the Wild Foods Potluck Nov. 2!
  • Stand Up to Corporate Influence!
  • Kayaking Kootznoowoo: Report on SCS’s Final Wilderness Trip
  • Encouraging Local Natural Resource Stewardship on the Tongass: Kennel Creek
  • Teaching the Alaska way of Life: 4-H in Sitka
Get Involved
Get Involved