July 06, 2009
The project is a partnership between The Nature Conservancy in Alaska, the Klawock Watershed Council, Alaska Department of Transportation, Ducks Unlimited, Alaska Trollers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act directs $992,062 to the Klawock River project.
"Restoring salmon passage is vital work in Alaska. The local economy depends on healthy salmon runs, and salmon need access to high quality habitat," said Rob Bosworth, who directs the Conservancy's restoration programs in Alaska's Tongass region. "A history of productive partnerships is once again proving successful in restoring habitat and providing jobs for rural communities."
This project restores fish passage between the Klawock River and its estuary. This allows out-migrating juvenile fish to access 460 acres of eelgrass habitat and allows adult salmon to reach more than 65 miles of stream and lake habitat. A central feature of the estuarine habitat restoration is the placement of a concrete fish passage structure beneath a causeway along the Craig to Klawock highway on Prince of Wales Island. Normal tidal flow at this location will resume, creating improved conditions for wild salmon.
"In terms of recovery, we hope to see increased growth of eelgrass inside the lagoon, which is important habitat for many fish species including salmon as well as full restoration of fish passage," said Randy Hagenstein, director of the Conservancy in Alaska.
The Klawock River system supports pink, chum, coho, and sockeye salmon, as well as steelhead, cutthroat trout, and Dolly Varden char. All of these contribute to sport, commercial, and subsistence fisheries, but they are decreasing in abundance. Prior to the construction of the highway in 1964, freshwater from the Klawock River mixed freely with the Klawock River Lagoon and Klawock Bay. The construction of the highway has blocked all connection between river and sea through the isthmus, creating a barrier to fish passage, according to state and federal agency biologists and the Klawock Watershed Council. The consensus is that this blockage would not be permitted if it were proposed today, and should be removed to help restore the fishery.
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