SITKA — Federal officials say fish populations appear to be unharmed by a massive landslide near Sitka last month.
Two people staying at a recreational cabin barely escaped with their lives when the slide came down May 12.
U.S. Forest Service officials say the sockeye run probably wasn’t affected when the landslide slammed into Redoubt Lake, KCAW reported.
The subsistence fishery will take place normally. Sockeye begin returning to the lake around July 4.
Subsistence dipnetters get a chance at the fish in the lake’s outlet stream.
Later, the fish enter the lake’s inlet stream, Redoubt Stream, which is now under about 20 feet of rock, mud and timber.
“It’s not really a waterfall. It’s a low enough gradient that they should be able to get up that,” says Perry Edwards, an ecosystem biologist for the Sitka Ranger District.
“It’s really not a lot different than the outlet falls to the lake that go into salt water. So there’s a short area where they’ll really have to motor to get up through there. The fisheries biologist was confident that sockeye should easily be able to get up there, to ascend to that upper lake area and into the stream. And some of them may be able to spawn in that new lake that’s been created up there,” Edwards said.
After the landslide, Kevin Knox, who escaped the cabin in the nick of time with Maggie Gallin, said the stream was carving a new channel in the debris field before it started to back up.
A new 55-acre lake has formed between the walls of the gorge, Edwards told the Sitka radio station.
But he doesn’t know if the lake, which is 35 feet deep in some places, will be permanent.
“Only time is going to tell. There’s a lot of material that came down in that slide. Old growth trees that were 3 feet in diameter, the full length crossing in there like pixie sticks. It’s really going to take some energy between that and some boulders the size of Volkswagens that came down in there. It may be there for the long haul. Or large flows may come down and carve through that. We’re really not going to know until time goes by,” Edwards said.
The lake, dubbed Little Redoubt Lake, could be good for fish and fishermen, if it stays.
“This upper lake, if it stays there, it could become very good rearing habitat for sockeye,” Edwards said.