The Klawock River originally met the sea via two channels, which provided a healthy flow of seawater through the lagoon. Under these conditions, expansive beds of saltwater-loving eelgrass offered a protective nursery for young salmon in the lagoon. After the causeway sealed off the lagoon’s north channel, salinity levels declined and the size of the eelgrass beds dwindled. A new causeway allows for salmon passage once again, and offers the long-term benefit of restoring the tidal flows.
It’s the first time in nearly 50 years: Video cameras have captured migrating salmon passing through a point blocked to tidal flow since a highway was constructed here in 1964. High tides bring migrating salmon through this newly restored channel to Klawock Lagoon, thanks to a Nature Conservancy–led project to install a specially designed culvert that allows high tides to flow through the lagoon’s north channel once again.
Spawning salmon are returning via this channel in the summer—and salmon smolt are migrating to the ocean through this channel in the spring.
Now that tidal flow is restored across the causeway, we could very well see improved growth of native eelgrass in the lagoon. This is great news for salmon because beds of eelgrass serve as nurseries for young fish. By installing an 18-foot-wide fish-friendly culvert, we have not only restored another salmon migration route for the lagoon—we’ve restored the flow that can bring habitat back to its full potential. We expect to see results within five to six years, and we will be monitoring for changes during this time.
The Klawock River system supports pink, chum, coho, and sockeye salmon, as well as steelhead, cutthroat trout, and Dolly Varden char. All of these contribute to sport, commercial, and subsistence fisheries, but they have been decreasing in abundance.
The Klawock River is a major salmon-producing system on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. Most of the island's 2,577 square miles lie within the Tongass National Forest. The Tongass is part of the largest remaining coastal temperate rainforest remaining on Earth.
Klawock Lagoon Salmon Passage Partners
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
Alaska Department of Transportation
Klawock Watershed Council
Klawock Heenya Corp.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
U.S. Forest Service
Natural Resources Conservation Service
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Klawock Cooperative Association
Craig Community Association
City of Klawock
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Alaska Trollers Association
National Forest Foundation