Skookum Edfro Phase 3/Phase 1 Adaptive Management
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Existing Conditions and Restoration Opportunities Report

The overall goal for the Skookum Edro Phase 3 Restoration Project began with the Lummi Natural Resources (LNR) Department engaging with stakeholders in developing a design concept that restores salmon spawning, rearing, and holding habitat in the South Fork Nooksack River from river mile (rm) 12.8 to 13.9. Stakeholders provided input, and LNR responded with a conceptual design (above). The Conceptual Design is above. A Preliminary Design with a Basis of Design will be on this site by June 24, 2024. More information is summarized below in the Project Development section about the next steps required for project implementation.

Total site map, showing implementation year and current schedule. Letters denote photo locations. Flow is from right to left.Total site map, showing implementation year and current schedule. Letters denote photo locations. Flow is from right to left.
The project reach is used for chinook holding, spawning, and rearing with over 90 redds observed since 1986, including 40 redds observed in 2022. The project reach is a hot spot for adult holding chinook as they migrate to the hatchery and upstream spawning grounds. This design should result in self-sustaining salmon runs at harvestable levels, and increased flows in the channel and available floodplain to reduce flooding to downstream properties.

Project alternatives are being drafted now and were presented at our June 14, 2023 community workshop (see meeting notes, above). Three alternatives were modeled this fall, with particular analysis on rise in the FEMA floodway (more on this can be found in our meeting notes). The only alternative that would pass the FEMA floodway requirements will require bank excavation. The good news is this alternative received the most favorable reviews at our June workshop! The alternative will be presented on this website in early 2024 for review. Phase 3 should be implemented in 2026 or 2027.

LNR and its engineering team also developing designs to adaptively manage the Skookum Edfro Phase 1 Restoration Project to encourage more flow to the Skookum Creek Fish Hatchery outfall. Phase 1 was built in 2017 and this design will work in the same area, between approximately the Skookum Creek confluence (rm 14.3) to around the island (rm 14). Phase 1 Adaptive Management will address the chinook mortality event of 2021, along with additional mortality events in 2022 and again in 2023. The hatchery outfall is where Lummi hatchery brood stock chinook returns to spawn, and is located in the left (north) side channel next to 'Skookum Island'. The side channel contains too low of flow when adult chinook return in August through early October.

Our engineering team is designing structures to encourage the channel to occupy more of the side channel and relocate the hatchery outfall upstream in the main channel. Lummi Nation Restoration Division met with members of the Salmon Enhancement and Stock Assessment Divisions to select a preferred alternative in October 2023. The plan is to 1) move the hacthery outfall channel upstream, then 2) Add ELJs on the left (south) bank to direct more flows toward the outfall channel. Phase 1 Adaptive Management should be implemented in 2025, with the hatchery outfall channel construction possibly even earlier. The designs will be available soon.


Flood Risk

Results of a recent Climate Impacts Risk Assessment show that there will be more frequent and intense floods in the future. The recent flooding throughout Whatcom County highlights the need to reduce flood risk for properties in flood prone areas.

This river needs your help.South Fork Nooksack River at river mile 13.15 looking downstream. The project reach is low-gradient with high quality chinook salmon spawning, rearing, and holding habitat potential. Location A on map.
Riprap and homogenous instream habitat, but has excellent floodplain potentialJagged boulders along the edge of the river (sometimes referred to as riprap) form homogeneous in-stream habitat, but there is excellent floodplain potential in this location. Location B on map.
Everyone gets to help restore the South Fork!Everyone gets to help restore the South Fork!

Chinook Salmon

The South Fork Nooksack River is home to three species that are listed as threatened on the Endangered Species List: chinook, steelhead, and bull trout. Habitat degradation is the leading cause for the decline of WRIA 1 (Nooksack Watershed) salmonid populations (WRIA 1 2005). A recent die-off of over 2,500 South Fork Nooksack early Chinook in September 2021 illustrates the severity of the habitat problems that are now being exacerbated by climate change. Most of the mortalities occurred in the project reach (LNR 2021), highlighting the need for habitat restoration. The photo below was presented on a 60 Minutes segment (the Vanishing Wild) that aired on January 1, 2023 (0:30 to 3:00 at or 15:15 to 18:05 at

Adult chinook mortality event. September 2021. From left: Frank Lawrence III, Alex Levell, and Chris Phair. Location C on map.Adult chinook mortality event. September 2021. From left: Frank Lawrence III, Alex Levell, and Chris Phair. Location C on map.
Here are several dead chinook as seen from an overhead drone. Location C on map.Here are several dead chinook as seen from an overhead drone. Flow is from left to right. Location C on map.
Adult chinook salmon holding under an ELJ in the lower South Fork Nooksack River. Photo composed by Ian Smith.This is more like our goal! Adult chinook salmon holding under an ELJ in the lower South Fork Nooksack River. Photo composed by Ian Smith.

Restoration Project Development

The 2020 rescindment by FEMA of the “Policy on Fish Enhancement Structures in the Floodway” led to several hydraulic modeling iterations to lower WSE rises at insurable structures. The proposed means to prevent rises and build the project is to excavate up to 85,000 CY from banks and side channels. The excavations will increase channel area, with removed trees to be built into the ELJs. Some removed alluvium will be placed in the areas of ineffective flow immediately downstream of the ELJs. Other excavated material will be hauled off-site to nearby quarries. The engineers will be adjusting models to reduce excavation amounts from the banks. Accretion of gravels following high flow events will replace the excavated bank footprints as the channel adjusts. LNR will allocate funds from a recent BIA award to procure the bank excavation costs and will not require RCO funding.

Climate change is occurring and is expected to increase both the frequencies and magnitudes of high flows. The engineers are designing structures to be stable over a range of likely higher flows.

To support LNR with implementing the early stages of the Phase 3 project, Herrera Environmental Consultants, Inc. (Herrera) has summarized the existing (pre-project) geomorphic and hydraulic conditions and habitat restoration opportunities within the Phase 3 reach (attached at top of site). Herrera developed a two-dimensional (2D) hydraulic model of the Phase 3 reach following a site visit to it on September 15, 2022. Herrera used the model results and observations of the current geomorphic and habitat conditions of the reach made during the site visit to identify habitat restoration opportunities, and to identify existing flood and geomorphic related risks (i.e., bank erosion, channel migration and channel avulsion) to nearby infrastructure and private property.

The general approach to improving habitat conditions in the Phase 3 reach is to implement restoration measures that promote the natural physical processes that create and sustain diverse and complex habitat conditions that ultimately promote recovery of ESA listed salmon species including Puget Sound Chinook, Steelhead and Bull Trout. Specifically, recovery of the South Fork early Chinook is essential to recovering the threatened Puget Sound ESU and for restoring runs to sustainable and harvestable levels for local tribal communities. Therefore, the restoration strategy is to achieve increased habitat function through restoring lost channel processes and conditions by emulating, to the greatest extent possible, the probable historical stream and channel conditions with immediate and/or near-term benefits under a range flows and conditions, for as long a duration as possible. To accomplish this WRIA 1 co-managers established target habitat conditions for the South Fork restoration project elements and performance monitoring. Herrera and LNR are developing designs matching such targets. The existing conditions and restoration opportunities report is at the top of this site.

The project team presented 3 draft concepts at the June 14, 2023 Community Workshop #2. We received feedback from the meeting attendees and proceeded with the preferred alternative. The FEMA no-rise policy, however, is limiting restoration opportunities. Herrera designed lower profile ELJs, moved banks back, and excavated wider forested floodplain channels to limit rise. The preferred alternative was adjusted to lower water surface elevation (WSE) rise on insurable structures. Thankfully, the preliminary design remains similar to the preferred alternative selected by stakeholders at the 2nd community workshop.

Here is a summary by the engineer of record for the preferred alternative:

The Phase 1 Adaptive Management preferred alternative that we’re moving forward with for final modeling and for which the prelim design will be based on will be moving the hatchery outfall channel upstream, adding a flood fence and berm to protect Saxon Road and the hatchery, and adding ELJs to promote channel occupation in the side channel. A short segment of the ditch downstream of the outlet channel will be filled by the new berm to possibly mitigate additional floodplain flow. Herrera is modeling the 100-yr discharge, and if the results are encouraging, proceed adding in ELJs along the right and left banks to address the Lummi Nation's desire to add more wood to the channel as part of this project.

Update 2022: Lummi Nation Response to Chinook Mortality Event

The root cause of the mortality event is severely compromised habitat function from legacy and ongoing degradation and alteration.The root cause of the mortality event is severely compromised habitat function from legacy and ongoing degradation and alteration.

Community Engagement

Engagement opportunities include:

The project team is deeply committed to working with and engaging stakeholders through the duration of this project.

Stakeholders will have opportunities to weigh in on various topics, including but not limited to:



For more information, please contact Alex Levell:

Upper South Fork Nooksack River Effectiveness Monitoring Report

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