Written by FCCD’s new employee Nate Schmidt
This spring I kicked off my new job with Foster Creek Conservation District (FCCD) by literally jumping right into East Foster Creek to build Beaver Dam Analogs (BDAs) and Post-Assisted Log Structures (PALS). I had not envisioned workdays on the dry side of the mountains to include topping out my waders, wringing out gloves and weaving branches together while standing in a stream, but it was a fun surprise. I am no stranger to getting wet in steady rain as I have spent the past several years working on the west side of the Cascades. Settling into this new landscape has given me a valuable perspective into how natural resources are viewed and managed in central Washington.
In a project funded by the WA State Dept. of Ecology and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, FCCD teamed up with Anabranch Solutions, LLC and the WA Conservation Corps to learn how to mimic and restore natural processes in a stream by building BDAs and PALS. We created the “frame” of the BDA with long wooden posts every 2-3 feet across the length of the stream. We then hauled a 95-lb post pounder hooked to a generator up and down steep streambanks that dropped into narrow channels of boot-sucking mud. Once the posts were secured, we carefully wove and anchored branches between those posts, creating a dam structure much like a beaver.
Next, our team worked together to create the PALS. These were two-foot-wide tree trunks that required all hands-on deck to lift and push them into the stream. We secured the logs by strategically pounding wooden posts to prevent them from washing away. We hope to create many benefits by adding these in-stream structures to the creek. The BDAs and PALS will slow water and collect sediment that would otherwise be swept into the Columbia River. The improved water quality will make it easier for salmon populations to thrive and help our Orca populations who rely almost exclusively on salmon as a food source. More plants may grow around the structures in the ponded water to shade and cool the stream and provide habitat for other important wildlife.
This was a fun and important project to begin my job at FCCD. Roughly 20 acres of habitat were improved over a span of 1.1 stream miles and included the installation 11 BDAs and 11 PALS. I really enjoyed meeting and working alongside the many partners who collaborated on the project. A big thanks to all those who came out, including Congressman Dan Newhouse, WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Conservation Northwest as well as landowners and local volunteers. We also thank the staff at Chief Joseph Dam for providing much of the woody material required to weave. We are looking forward to monitoring the changes in this stretch of East Foster Creek in the future and already have more structures planned for the fall.