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National Fish Habitat Partnership’s 2021 Waters to Watch Projects Feature Coastal Habitats

October 05, 2021

A highlight of five of the National Fish Habitat Partnership's 2021 Waters to Watch projects that take place in coastal, estuarine, and marine habitats where NOAA works.

An image of the Lawrence Creek with added woody debris in California. Lawrence Creek in the Eel River watershed in California. Credit: Trout Unlimited

The National Fish Habitat Partnership (NFHP) is a science-based, state-led initiative to protect, restore, and enhance aquatic ecosystems across the United States. NOAA has been a key partner in NFHP since its establishment. This unique national partnership consists of a network of 20 Fish Habitat Partnerships, which focus on improving fish habitat and aquatic communities at regional and local levels. Collectively, they have completed more than 1,000 projects in 50 states. Each year, NFHP hosts the Waters to Watch campaign, which raises the visibility of some of the best on-the-ground aquatic habitat conservation projects implemented by individual FHPs. We are highlighting five coastal, estuarine, and marine projects in the 2021 Waters to Watch campaign that take place in habitats where NOAA works.

Applegate Watershed, Oregon – Pacific Lamprey Conservation Initiative

This Pacific Lamprey Conservation Initiative project will open up important spawning and rearing habitat for migrating Pacific Lamprey adults. It will improve upstream passage over small dams, a primary threat throughout their range. The six low-head dams targeted for this project include:

  • Murphy Dam and McKee Dam (mainstem Applegate River)
  • Lovelace Dam (Slate Creek)
  • Watts Topin (Williams Creek)
  • Lower Philips Dam and Gin Lin Dam (Little Applegate River)
An upriver view of the Lovelace dam in Applegate, Oregon
Lovelace Dam in Applegate, Oregon. Credit: Applegate Partnership & Watershed Council

Since 2007, an unprecedented four dams have been removed from the Rogue Basin in southern Oregon. This has increased migratory capacity for Pacific Lamprey at all life stages in the region. Existing structures, like the low-head dams remediated as part of this project, continue to impede passage for lamprey in the Applegate watershed. Many of these barriers can be modified at minimal cost to create a curve in the dam’s crest (such that lamprey can suction over). The modifications would not impact water users or the dam’s integrity or structure. These innovative retrofits are low impact, cost-efficient ways to enable adult upstream passage for Pacific Lamprey.

Project Partners: Applegate Partnership & Watershed Council*, Bureau of Land Management, Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, Grizzly Peak Working Group, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, Rogue Basin Partnership’s Native Species Working Group, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service, Western Fishes* (*Indicates implementing partners. All other partners are providing in-kind technical development and coordination.)

Eklutna River, Alaska – Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership

This project, located within the bounds of the Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership, is the most ambitious river restoration project ever attempted in Alaska. The Native Village of Eklutna, Eklutna Inc., and The Conservation Fund completed the 5-year, $7.5 million effort to remove the long-abandoned lower Eklutna River dam. With removal of the dam, salmon can access the 8 miles of river leading to Eklutna Lake for the first time in nearly a century.

An image from above of nine people at the former site of the lower Eklutna dam.
Members of the Technical Working Group at the former site of the lower Eklutna dam during a field trip to discuss an instream flow study that began in 2021. Credit: Trout Unlimited

The lower Eklutna River dam was built in 1929 as one of Alaska’s first hydroelectric projects. Located in a dramatic 400-foot deep canyon, access to the project site was a severe challenge during the construction and later demolition of the dam. Power ran by wire to Anchorage until the early 1950s when the lower Eklutna River dam was decommissioned and ultimately abandoned. Repeated studies over several decades recommended the removal of the lower Eklutna River dam as an essential first step in restoring the river. Partners are working to bring back a healthy and fully functioning river. Their efforts will ensure fish passage past the upper Eklutna dam and maintain enough water in the river to support five species of salmon and their habitat needs.

Project Partners:

Key project partners in dam removal were Native Village of Eklutna and Eklutna Inc., and The Conservation Fund. Funding for the $7.5 million project was provided largely by The Conservation Fund, with additional financial support from the Rasmuson Foundation, the M.J Murdock Charitable Trust, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Open Rivers Fund of the Hewlett Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund, the Marnell Corporation, the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, Patagonia, Orvis, Wells Fargo, Alaska Community Foundation and National Fish Habitat Partnership. 

Jordan Creek, Alaska – Southeast Alaska Fish Habitat Partnership

An image of a few youth as they search for aquatic invertebrates in a bottom sample collected in Lower Jordan Creek.
Youth search for aquatic invertebrates in a bottom sample collected in Lower Jordan Creek.
Credit: Southeast Alaska Fish Habitat Partnership

In 2019, member groups of the Southeast Alaska Fish Habitat Partnership teamed up to address urban stormwater pollution and support efforts to address water quality impairments. They included instituting protection measures for Jordan Creek in Juneau, Alaska. Jordan Creek provides important habitat for salmon, trout, and char. The team completed a watershed action plan for Lower Jordan Creek in the spring of 2021. The plan identifies sources of pollutants and other stream impairments and recommends site specific actions to address stormwater pollution and river health.

Project Partners: Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Super 8 Motel, Discovery Southeast, Juneau International Airport, Tongass Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Society of St. Vincent De Paul, Cub Scouts, Local Landowners, City and Borough of Juneau.   



Lawrence Creek, California – California Fish Passage Forum

The Eel River watershed, California’s third largest, once boasted one of the state’s most robust salmonid fisheries, including Chinook and Coho Salmon. Lawrence Creek has been identified as a high priority salmon and steelhead stream in the Eel River watershed. A collaborative public-private partnership was formed to initiate a multi-phased project. The goal of the project is to restore and enhance conditions and historic floodplain habitat on Lawrence Creek. Restoring off-channel ponds and side channels provides important shelter for salmon during high flows from winter storm events. The restoration project also includes increasing the habitat diversity in the creek (e.g. adding large pieces of wood) which leads to improved food resources for fish. 

Watch: efforts to recover Coho Salmon in the Eel River watershed 

Project Partners: Trout Unlimited (Project Lead), Humboldt Redwood Company, NOAA Restoration Center, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region, Pacific Watershed Associates, and California Fish Passage Forum

Monatiquot River, Massachusetts – Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership

For many years, the former mill industry along the Monatiquot River impacted historic herring runs and disconnected species from their spawning grounds. Now, the Armstrong Dam is the primary barrier to fish passage on the river. The dam no longer serves its original purpose and is also a public safety hazard. This project, led by the Town of Braintree, will remove the Armstrong Dam. There is also a concurrent project to remove the downstream Ames Pond Dam and install a fishway around Rock Falls. When these projects are completed, 36 miles of unimpeded upstream access to 180 acres of river herring spawning habitat will be restored.

Project Partners: Town of Braintree, NOAA Restoration Center, Hollingsworth Pond LLC, MA Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program, MA EEA Dam & Seawall Repair or Removal Grant Program, MA Division of Ecological Restoration, MA Division of Marine Fisheries, Fore River Watershed Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MA EEA Dam & Seawall Repair or Removal Grant Program, Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership, and more (pending contributions).

An image of the Monatiquot dam
Armstrong Dam on the Monatiquot River. Credit: 
Town of Braintree, Massachusetts