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A Two-Decade Watershed Approach to Stream Restoration Log Jam Design and Stream Recovery Monitoring: Finney Creek, Washington


  • Paper No. JAWRA-12-0033-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA).
  • Discussions are open until six months from print publication.


A federal, state, and private partnership leveraged resources and employed a long-term, systematic approach to improve aquatic habitat degraded by decades of intensive forest management in Finney Creek, a tributary to the Skagit River of Northwest Washington State. After more than a decade of work to reduce sediment sources and the risk of landslides within the watershed, log jam installation commenced in 1999 and progressed downstream through 2010. Log jam design was adapted as experience was gained. A total of 181 log jams, including 60 floating log ballasted jams, were constructed along 12 km of channel. The goal was to alter hydraulic processes that affect aquatic habitat formation along 39 km of stream with emphasis on 18.5 km of lower Finney Creek. Aquatic habitat surveys over a five-year period show an increase in the area of large pools and an accompanying increase in residual and maximum pool depth in the lower river reach. Channel cross sections show a generally deeper channel at the log jams, better channel definition in the gravel deposits at the head of the log jams, and improved riffle and thalweg development below the log jams. Stream temperature in the upper river decreased by 1.0°F in the first three years, and 1.1°F in the lowest treated reach over nine years. There is a trend of less stream heating over the restoration time period. Photo points show that riparian vegetation is recolonizing gravel bars.