Large spruce recently recruited to Finney Creek contrasts with more typical forest of small alders behind. Large conifer trees in riparian zones are rare and valuable to habitat creation. Conifers are also slow to reestablish without planting.
Large spruce recently recruited to Finney Creek contrasts with more typical forest of small alders behind. Large conifer trees in riparian zones are rare and valuable to habitat creation. Conifers are also slow to reestablish without planting.

 

Finney Creek is a large alluvial stream that would be called a ‘river’ in many locations. It is renowned for production of steelhead as well as Chinook, Coho, Pink and Chum salmon. The lower 13 miles consists of low gradient reaches with high potential for anadromous spawning and rearing. Lower Finney was degraded by massive sediment inputs from landsliding in steep headwater terrain in the 1970s, 80s and 90s (Parks 1992, Paulson 1996). Resulting channel widening and riparian logging contributed to a riparian zone dominated by red alder and other hardwoods but short on conifers (Haight SRSC). Conifers are needed to provide stable and durable LWD to form log jams and other habitat. Finney Creek also suffers from warm summer stream temperatures (Mostovetsky and others, 2014) unhealthy for salmonids. Although mature hardwoods do provide shade, conifer trees have the potential to create taller and denser canopies. Natural reestablishment of conifers under the hardwood canopy has been sparse, due to severe competition from trees and understory shrubs.

Thinning a young alder stand prior to conifer underplanting at the Shady Grove site
Thinning a young alder stand prior to conifer underplanting at the Shady Grove site
Planted cedar and spruce saplings thriving along the Finney bank at the T Rux site
Planted cedar and spruce saplings thriving along the Finney bank at the T Rux site

SRSC’s goal has been to facilitate establishment of shade-tolerant conifer species (cedar, hemlock, spruce and grand fir) along Finney Creek that will enhance riparian functions in coming decades and centuries. This project consists of five sites (see table below) employing two treatments: Hardwood conversion and Conifer underplanting. Hardwood conversion involves cutting mature hardwoods beyond 50 feet from the channel to maximize light available to replanted conifers. Conifer underplanting occurs beneath an intact or thinned hardwood stand, thus retaining ecological benefits from retained hardwoods.

 

SiteMiles upstream from Skagit confluenceInitial PlantingStream Length (feet)Treatment*
Teepee Thin3.72003500UP
Shady Grove4.32003700UP
T Rux6.820033,000HC & UP
Finbend12.320031,600UP
Enduro12.72002900HC & UP

*HC: Hardwood Conversion, UP: Understory Planting

 

All sites have required extensive control of competing vegetation and animal browse for 10+ years after planting. Damage from elk is a serious problem that was initially underestimated, as elk use expanded into the Finney Creek valley soon after planting. Additional planting and placing mesh tube protectors on seedlings have been successful counter-measures. Between 1999 and 2010 the US Forest Service installed log jams in lower Finney Creek that provide near-term in-channel LWD function (Nichols and Ketcheson 2013) as conifer planted under this project mature toward functional size.

 

Primary Project Contact:

Curt Veldhuisen – SRSC Forest and Fish Director

 

Funding Sources:

BIA

 

Partners:

SRSC Forest and Fish Program

Forest landowners Goodyear Nelson Hardwoods and Sierra Pacific Industries.

 

Supporting documents
Haight, R. 2002. An Inventory and Assessment of the Finney Creek Riparian Forest: Methodology and Results. Skagit River System Cooperative, La Conner, WA. 59 pp.

Nichols, R. A. and G. L. Ketcheson, 2013. A Two-Decade Watershed Approach to Stream Restoration Log Jam Design and Stream Recovery Monitoring: Finney Creek, Washington. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 1-18. DOI: 10.1111/jawr.12091

Mostovetsky, A., J. Phillips, M. Olis, C. Veldhuisen, and S. Morris. 2014. Skagit and Sauk Tributary Stream Temperature Monitoring: 2008-2013 Results and Interpretation. Skagit River System Cooperative, La Conner, WA. Available at: http://www.skagitcoop.org/documents/SRSC%20Stream%20Temperature%20Report%202008-2013.pdf

Parks, D.S., 1992. A Landslide Inventory of the Finney Creek Watershed, Skagit County, Washington. M.S. Thesis, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, 164 pp.

Paulson, K., 1996. Estimates of Land-Use Effects on Sediment Supply in the Finney Creek Watershed, Skagit County, Washington. Prepared for the Skagit System Cooperative and submitted in partial fulfillment of U.S. Forest Service Cost Share Monitoring Agreement #CCS-94-04-05-01-050. College of Forest Resources, AR-10, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, 32 pp.

Ten year old cedar at the Enduro hardwood conversion site is now over 20 feet tall
Ten year old cedar at the Enduro hardwood conversion site is now over 20 feet tall