Illahee Creek restoration part of grant program

Scott Dutro, of Maple Ridge Excavating in Duvall, and Shawn Higgins, of Natural Systems Design in Seatle, install six large cedar logs in Illahee Creek last week. - Kevan Moore
Scott Dutro, of Maple Ridge Excavating in Duvall, and Shawn Higgins, of Natural Systems Design in Seatle, install six large cedar logs in Illahee Creek last week.
— image credit: Kevan Moore

Irwin and Judith Krigsman have one heck of a backyard.

The majority of the couple’s 15-acre property is made up of a ravine that is bisected by Illahee Creek just before it makes its way into Puget Sound.

“It’s like walking into a different world,” Judith said. “You come up here and it’s beautiful. You just don’t find this in an urban area.”

Following some work last week, which was funded through the Kitsap Conservation District Backyard Habitat Grant Program, the Krigsmans’ backyard will eventually be even more inviting for salmon and other wildlife.

Six large Douglas fir logs with root wads still attached were installed at angles in and along the creek. The installation of the logs will affect storm water velocity, provide habitat pools for salmon, reduce scouring and erosion and, officials hope, will serve as a demonstration project for how local stream and fish habitat may be positively affected by the installation of large woody debris.

The work that was done in the Krigmans’ backyard coincides with five other projects sponsored by the local conservation district’s Backyard Habitat Grant Program this year, including two projects in Dogfish Creek, one in Strawberry Creek and one in Chico Creek.

Carin Anderson has been with the Kitsap Conservation District for four years and administers all of the backyard grants, each of which comes in at $10,000 or less.

“We get a lot done without a lot of money,” Anderson said. “I think a lot of that has to do with people’s good intentions.”

Anderson noted that property owners, like the Krigsmans, are responsible for hiring contractors and, in some cases, designers for each of the projects. Many times, materials like woody debris and the use of heavy equipment is donated.

“Everyone does what they can to keep costs down,” Anderson said. “We’re able to keep projects local and tend to get a better price.”

While a 100-foot stretch of Illahee Creek was being diverted in order to install the logs last Tuesday, two small fish — it was difficult to know for sure what type of salmon they were at first blush — were recovered from the water.

“I mean, seeing fish in this stream today just builds up your excitement that with a little help all things are possible,” said Judith. “It’s always good to see a lot of excitement and to see some action when it comes to creek restoration.”

Shawn Higgins, a geomorphologist with Natural Systems Design in Seattle, who worked with his boss Dr. Tim Abbe on designing the restoration project, was on site for the installation last week. Also on hand was Scott Dutro, of Maple Ridge Excavating in Duvall, who operated the equipment to put the logs precisely where he and Higgins wanted them to go.

“I view this as a demonstration project to utilize resources with grant money and show how large woody debris can be utilized to restore channel complexity,” Higgins said. “We want to work with the Krigsmans and other stakeholders in the watershed to get the resources to do a bigger project locally.”

And chances are good that more projects will be needed. After years of sediment buildup, the culvert running underneath Illahee Road at the edge of the Krigsmans’ property is poised to force the roadway to fail. Restoration work on Illahee Creek and elsewhere, officials say, can help avoid such calamities.


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