Organizers of the annual Orca Recovery Week are seeking volunteers for a number of projects in early October. Photo by Brennen Bartlett

Organizers of the annual Orca Recovery Week are seeking volunteers for a number of projects in early October. Photo by Brennen Bartlett

Help provide river restoration during Orca Recovery Week

The Clallam Conservation District is teaming up with several partners — including the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Quileute Tribe, Clallam County Environmental Health, Dungeness River Nature Center, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife — to host free educational programs and volunteer restoration opportunities throughout the Olympic Peninsula from Oct. 5-9.

The events, dubbed Orca Recovery Week, are designed to bring awareness to the plight of the southern resident Orca whale, and aid in salmon recovery efforts since the Orca’s diet is comprised heavily of salmon, organizers said.

Educational events kick off the afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 5, with a guided walk through the former Lake Aldwell lakebed to the Elwha River to learn how a variety of restoration efforts, including the removal of dams, enabled the river to return to its natural conditions and helped native fish populations to recover.

Later that evening, a webinar is slated about the health of Lake Sutherland and Indian Creek, with a look at past, present and future restoration activities on the waterways that provide fish habitat and contribute to fish populations in the Elwha River.

On the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 6, event organizers offer a guided walk along the Dungeness River to explain the many challenges the river has faced in the past century including winter flooding, low flows during summer months and impacts to riparian habitat. The walk is followed with a briefing about projects that have been implemented to help restore this watershed.

Volunteer are needed beginning Thursday, Oct. 7, with a planting event that morning off Cooper Ranch Road near Forks. Help is needed from volunteers to plant hundreds of conifer seedlings along the Sol Duc River and a tributary.

In time, organizers say, these trees will keep water temperatures cooler during the summer months, as well as provide a future source of woody debris important to fish habitat. On Friday, Oct. 8, volunteers are needed to assist cleaning up debris from Indian Creek as it flows out of Lake Sutherland and makes its way into the Elwha River.

In August more than two tons of trash and 30 tires were removed by volunteers, but there is still more left to collect. Removal of this debris, event organizers said, is important as it displaces habitat, pollutes the water and harms aquatic life.

The final event will be held on Saturday, Oct. 9, with a large-scale planting on the Elwha River. Volunteers are needed to plant 2,000 conifer trees along the Elwha River as it flows throughout the former Lake Aldwell reservoir.

Dam removal left about 700 acres of former lakebeds to return to native forests, and harsh growing conditions such as a lack of topsoil and direct exposure to wind, rain and sun, have made it a challenge to establish conifers in the old lakebeds. These restoration plantings are crucial to restore the ecosystem, organizers said, and in time, these seedlings will provide vital shade to the river and contribute large woody debris to create excellent instream fish habitat.

All events are free and designed with COVID-19 safety protocols in mind.

For more information or to register, visit the Clallam Conservation District’s website at clallamcd.org/orcaevents.

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