Fish and People: Finding a Balance

An engineered log jam

The best river environment for thriving salmon populations isn’t always the best for humans who also use the rivers and streams the fish inhabit. Efforts to enhance habitat with engineered structures such as engineered log jams (ELJs) and large woody debris placements can increase the risk of drowning or injury for fishers, swimmers, kayakers and whitewater rafters that visit the river for relaxation and play.

The Lummi Nation faced these safety challenges as they implemented two salmon habitat enhancement projects on the South Fork of the Nooksack River in Whatcom and Skagit County, WA. To address these issues, Lummi Nation Natural Resources engaged GeoEngineers to assess the safety risk for structures placed within the Skookum and Fobes Reaches of the South Fork, and to provide recommendations for how to incorporate public-safety interests into future habitat protection and enhancement projects.

A team at GeoEngineers has been working to address these concerns for a number of years. For the Nooksack ELJ safety assessment project, they reviewed literature, analyzed hydraulic and geomorphic conditions and visited the sites.

The team developed an assessment tool that gives the tribe a process to balance effective habitat restoration decisions with public safety and helps the tribe select the safest locations for future ELJ structures within the river environment. To help minimize risk to the public, the team also recommended using warning signs and updating stakeholders through community outreach.

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