Agencies upgrade Gold Creek to give salmon a chance to spawn

Posted: Monday, January 13, 2003

In an effort to restore salmon spawning habitat, boulders and gravel have been added to Gold Creek between the end of its concrete-reinforced section to the point where the creek flows into Gastineau Channel.

"A long time ago we did a project to protect the area from flooding at the request of the local government," said John Killoran, public affairs officer with the Alaska District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "We hardened the channel. This had its own effect of washing out the spawning grounds used by salmon. ... Putting boulders and gravel back into the stream will hopefully restore the fishery."

The material was added to the creek mouth last week by workers from Western Marine Construction.

Corps of Engineers biologist Chris Hoffman said the boulders placed downstream near the Egan Drive bridge will slow the river's flow and keep gravel in the intertidal spawning area.

"Now they will spawn and deposit eggs during the higher flow. This will give them gravel to actually spawn in," he said. "This won't change (the lack of) access upstream, but will provide habitat in the lower area."

The city, which contributed $33,000 for the construction work, expects to spend another $60,000 to revegetate the banks of Gold Creek up to Willoughby Avenue, said Port Director Joe Graham.

"We'll do that this spring and summer," he said. "We plan on putting in new vegetation, benches, perhaps some informational placards. We think it can be a great opportunity for a mini-park."

Pink salmon do return to Gold Creek now, but usually aren't successful in spawning. Many of those that return try to negotiate their way up the concrete-lined creek, making for an "awe-inspiring sight," Graham said.

With the changes, other types of salmon could be re-introduced to the creek, he said.

"By and large, most people will be pleased with the end result, especially cleaning up the bank," Graham said. "There's debris and rebar. It's going to look much nicer."

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