A sitting area on Little River dedicates the project to Rick Skelly, a supportive landowner of the project. Skelly died during the second year of construction. (Photo courtesy of Tiffany Royal/Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission)

A sitting area on Little River dedicates the project to Rick Skelly, a supportive landowner of the project. Skelly died during the second year of construction. (Photo courtesy of Tiffany Royal/Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission)

Lower Elwha Tribe finishes 2-year restoration project

Work dedicated to man who died before its completion

By Tiffany Royal | Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

PORT ANGELES — The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe has completed a two-year restoration project of Little River, making it more salmon friendly as part of the tribe’s Elwha River watershed restoration work.

Little River is one of the first streams that salmon and other fish recolonized after swimming past the old Elwha Dam following its removal in 2013. The dam blocked fish passage for nearly 100 years.

Since 2013, Puget Sound chinook, steelhead, coho and pink salmon, plus bull trout, have been seen spawning in Little River.

A sitting area on Little River dedicating the project to Rick Skelly, a supportive landowner of the project. He died during the second year of construction. (Photo courtesy of Tiffany Royal/Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission)

A sitting area on Little River dedicating the project to Rick Skelly, a supportive landowner of the project. He died during the second year of construction. (Photo courtesy of Tiffany Royal/Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission)

To further support salmon spawning efforts, with $1.5 million in funding from the state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the tribe placed more than 200 logs in a 1.2-mile stretch of the tributary using helicopters and excavators, then secured them with about 330 rock collars, each of which are made up of two boulders connected with a high-strength cable.

The logs and boulders provide natural features that salmon need to survive, slowing water velocity and creating pools for salmon for resting, feeding and spawning, said Mike McHenry, the tribe’s fisheries habitat manager.

Prior to dam removal, salmon habitat had degraded in the watershed because of historic logging practices that removed large trees and triggered a process called channel incision, McHenry said.

The installed logs and rock collars in Little River, just upstream from where Little River meets the Elwha River mainstem. (Photo courtesy of Natural Systems Design Inc.)

The installed logs and rock collars in Little River, just upstream from where Little River meets the Elwha River mainstem. (Photo courtesy of Natural Systems Design Inc.)

Without the wood, the fast-flowing water scoured fine gravel needed for spawning while leaving behind larger rocks and, in some extreme cases, bedrock, he said.

The tribe has been working with various partners, including Olympic National Park and supportive private landowners like Rick Skelly, who died during the second year of construction.

The tribe has dedicated the project to Skelly.

“Rick Skelly was so supportive of the restoration work and loved nature and Little River,” McHenry said.

“Rick was so excited to see the project implemented, and the tribe is saddened that he did not get to see it completed.”

The sign reads: “The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Dedicates the Little River Salmon Restoration Project to the Memory of Rick Skelly. Rick had a passion for the outdoors. He loved wildlife and walking in the woods. Rick spent many hours reflecting along Little River. It was one of his favorite places to be.” (Photo courtesy of Tiffany Royal/Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission)

The sign reads: “The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Dedicates the Little River Salmon Restoration Project to the Memory of Rick Skelly. Rick had a passion for the outdoors. He loved wildlife and walking in the woods. Rick spent many hours reflecting along Little River. It was one of his favorite places to be.” (Photo courtesy of Tiffany Royal/Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission)

This project would not have been possible without the Skellys’ support, as well as the Wagner, Fink, Freed, Gray, Johnson, Worthington and Malcolm families, and Green Crow Timber, McHenry said.

“These private property owners all deserve credit and the tribe thanks them for supporting this important restoration work,” he said.

For more information, contact McHenry at [email protected] or 360-457-4012; or Tiffany Royal, public information officer, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, at [email protected] or 360-621-5934.

The installed logs and rock collars in Little River, just upstream from where Little River meets the Elwha River mainstem. (Photo courtesy of Natural Systems Design Inc.)

The installed logs and rock collars in Little River, just upstream from where Little River meets the Elwha River mainstem. (Photo courtesy of Natural Systems Design Inc.)

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