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Quinault Indian Reservation

Project Summaries

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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.

WA404 - Watershed Analysis of the Quinault River Basin, Washington - Completed FY1999

Problem - Human activities have greatly altered the ecosystem of the Quinault River basin, on Washington's Olympic Peninsula (figure 1). Although people have lived in the basin for as long as 9,000 years, it has only been within the last 100 years that human activities have substantially altered the environment. After the 1920's, old-growth stands of tall rain-forest trees such as Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar were harvested. The logging left the land covered with clearcuts, deciduous growth, or younger-aged conifers. In addition, human settlement has greatly increased from pre-European times, and the basin now contains communities and highways. The altered ecosystem and increased population have affected wildlife species, and those species dependent on old-growth forest have experienced substantial declines. Reduction in habitat and increases in fishing have caused serious declines in salmon populations.

To assess the impacts of these human activities on the watershed, the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) is undertaking an interagency, collaborative watershed assessment of the entire Quinault River basin. The project will consider the current state of the watershed, taking into account aquatic, terrestrial, and human elements. It will assess how these elements interact in positive and detrimental ways to affect the overall health of the ecosystem.

Objectives - The watershed analysis will assess the current states of the basin, will identify data critical to understanding ecosystem processes, and will identify gaps in data and understanding of processes. Where possible the interactions among the aquatic, terrestrial, and human elements will be analyzed, providing a basis for future analysis and restoration in the basin. The USGS will collaborate with the QIN and other agencies in the analysis. The USGS assistance will focus specifically on the aquatic element.

Approach - The watershed analysis of the Quinault River basin will first identify the most critical areas and issues. It will consider the aquatic, terrestrial, and human elements that make up the ecosystem, as well as the interactions among these elements. The analysis will also identify critical data needed for adequate assessment of conditions, will identify data gaps, and will start to formulate baseline data and trends.

The USGS will provide one person to collaborate with the watershed analysis team. As for all team members, the USGS team member will work with the team on all aspects of the analysis. In particular, though, the USGS team member will focus specifically on the aquatic element and hydrology. Particular attention will be paid to topics such as sediment transport, geomorphology, water-quality, ground-water and surface-water interactions, and biological-hydrological interactions.

WA229 - Investigation of the Availability of Improved Source of Ground-Water Supply For Taholah, Quinault Indian Reservation - Completed FY1985

Problem - The water supply for the town of Taholah, on the Quinault Indian Reservation, has been obtained from two springs on the floor of the Quinault River valley. These springs, because of reduced flow and increased demand, became inadequate and two wells were recently drilled. The quantity of water from the wells was adequate but users complained of salty water within a week of when the wells were put into service. A few days later, use of the the wells was discontinued and the springs were put into service again. There was no indication of salt water when the wells were first drilled.

Objectives - The objectives of the study are to define the geohydrology of a part of the Quinault River valley in the vicinity of Taholah, including determining the source and extent of chlorides in the existing well field, and to assess the susceptibility to salt-water intrusion of selected alternate well-field sites.

Approach - In order to accomplish this it will be necessary (1) to determine the type and areal extent of the unconsolidated materials that underlie the valley floor and adjacent uplands; (2) to describe the ground-water flow system of the valley floor in the area between the well field and the coast; and (3) to map the extent of the chlorides and determine if the salt-water intrusion has been due to landward migration of the coastal salt-fresh water interface, or to induced recharge to the ground-water system from the river as a result of pumping from the new well field.

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