Quinault Indian Reservation

Science Center Objects

The rivers and forests of the Olympic Peninsula have long been important sources of natural resources. For the Quinault Indian Nation of the southwestern Olympic Peninsula, forests and fisheries have been the cultural and economic mainstay for thousands of years. To protect and restore these dwindling resources, the Quinault Indian Nation is undertaking a science-based approach for land management, in which understanding of ecologic conditions and functions is developed as a basis for steering land management activities in directions that promote societal values. The Quinault, Queets, Raft, and Salmon are four rivers that flow on or adjacent to Quinault Indian Nation lands that are important for fish production. These rivers actively avulse and migrate across their floodplains, leaving oxbow lakes, sloughs, and side channels that serve as critical habitat for many aquatic species, including rearing and refugia areas for anadromous salmonids such as Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, and Steelhead. This proposal is to study channel, large wood, floodplain, and riparian vegetation dynamics on these rivers as a component of participating in a watershed analysis of the 34 mi2 Salmon River.

WA429 - Channel Processes, Quinault Indian Reservation - Completed FY2002

Background and Problem - The rivers and forests of the Olympic Peninsula have long been important sources of natural resources. For the Quinault Indian Nation of the southwestern Olympic Peninsula, forests and fisheries have been the cultural and economic mainstay for thousands of years. To protect and restore these dwindling resources, the Quinault Indian Nation is undertaking a science-based approach for land management, in which understanding of ecologic conditions and functions is developed as a basis for steering land management activities in directions that promote societal values. The Quinault, Queets, Raft, and Salmon are four rivers that flow on or adjacent to Quinault Indian Nation lands that are important for fish production. These rivers actively avulse and migrate across their floodplains, leaving oxbow lakes, sloughs, and side channels that serve as critical habitat for many aquatic species, including rearing and refugia areas for anadromous salmonids such as Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, and Steelhead. This proposal is to study channel, large wood, floodplain, and riparian vegetation dynamics on these rivers as a component of participating in a watershed analysis of the 34 mi2 Salmon River (figure 1).

Objectives - There are two primary objectives aimed at understanding channel conditions for coastal piedmont rivers along the western Olympic Peninsula.

In a manner similar to USGS participation in the Quinault watershed analysis (Quinault Indian Nation, in press), we will fully participate in the interagency watershed analysis of the Salmon River watershed.

We will build upon earlier USGS studies and conduct additional research on interactions between channel migration, large woody debris, and floodplains and their forests as a basis for understanding resulting patterns and rates of channel migration.

Relevance and Benefits - The proposed project will yield benefits to the cooperator, to the USGS, to scientists who investigate channel-forming and migration processes in the region, and ultimately, to the public that depends on sound, science-based resource decision-making. Firstly, inclusion of a quantitative analysis of channel and floodplain-forest interaction will contribute to the credibility of the entire watershed analysis report. Secondly, publishing investigation results in a peer-reviewed scientific journal will establish the USGS as a significant contributor to the current state of knowledge of channel and floodplain geomorphic processes in the Pacific Northwest. Thirdly, results of the investigation will add to the understanding of the role of wood in channel morphology and movement, which will provide a basis for science-based management of the floodplain forests and resources, such as fish, that are linked to channel environments.

Approach - To achieve these objectives, we propose a 2-year study that will include full participation in the Salmon River watershed analysis process as well as additional analysis of channel and riparian forest interactions for actively migrating rivers with forested floodplains. The approach for involvement in the watershed analysis will be similar as it was for the Quinault watershed (Quinault Indian Nation, in press) and requires summarizing and interpreting existing data and information for channel processes within the Salmon River watershed, largely following established procedures for watershed analysis. Channel and floodplain forest interactions for coastal piedmont rivers in general will be studied by a combination of field investigation, analysis of historic maps and documents, and GIS analysis. These studies will build on earlier work performed on the Quinault River (Quinault Indian Nation, in press) as well as studies by Abbe and Montgomery (1996) on the Queets River.