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2008 banner year for creek restoration

Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman speaks at a ceremony for the Chico Creek Restoration project in November. - Jesse Beals/file photo
Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman speaks at a ceremony for the Chico Creek Restoration project in November.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/file photo

The results of several years of hard work paid off for two local salmon-bearing creeks in 2008 as two projects were completed with an emphasis on creek restoration.

Chico Creek and Barker Creek received much-needed improvements as barriers were removed to allow salmon to swim with more freedom to their home waters in Kitsap County.

For decades, chum salmon have found the trip up Chico Creek through the Kitsap Golf and Country Club difficult at best as a narrow stream channel created I-5 rush hour congestion during their annual pilgrimage to spawn.

Despite the crowded conditions, the creek is one of the top chum-producing creeks in Western Washington, as an estimated 60,000-70,000 chum passed through the creek this year.

Now, thanks to the combined efforts of Kitsap County, the Suquamish Tribe, the Kitsap Golf and Country Club and the state of Washington among others, the journey has been made easier as the first phase of the Chico Creek mainstem restoration project is nearly complete.

Central Kitsap Commis-sioner Josh Brown invited the public to celebrate the rebirth of the creek Nov. 21.

“Hopefully this is just one of many projects to restore very productive salmon streams,” Brown said.

The project wouldn’t have been successful had it not been for the collaborative effort by all those involved who found ways to overcome the many obstacles, which stood in the project’s way, he said, noting there were times when the project almost didn’t move forward because of lack of funding.

“There wasn’t going to be enough funding for the entire project, so our staff broke it into two phases,” Brown said.

The first phase of the project restored 500 feet of the creek’s mainstem at the golf course, while the second phase will restore another 600 feet of the mainstem, including a permanent solution to the failing weirs that block salmon.

Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman thanked everyone involved in the project for their support and a job well done.

“We will continue to work to restore it, and we still have a lot of work to do,” Forsman said.

23rd Leg. District state Rep. Christine Rolfes said even as the state Legislature copes with an expected budget deficit in the upcoming legislative session, she will do her best to ensure funding remains for salmon recovery efforts.

“It has to be a priority,” Rolfes said, adding that the annual salmon runs up the creek are sources of inspiration for everyone.

“The project goals were to replace a partial salmon passage barrier (the existing 4-foot culvert), restore Dyes Inlet’s salinity, nutrients and ecosystem to the estuary upstream of the old culvert and remove the blockage to transport large woody materials,” said Mid Puget Sound Fisheries Enhancement Board of Directors President Paul Dorn, who also works for the Suquamish Tribe, noting the old culvert blocked the normal exchange of fresh and saltwater in the full estuary.

Those goals were achieved by constructing a 36-foot wide and 13-foot tall bridge and plugging the old culvert, Dorn said.

West Sound Watersheds Council Coordinator Kathleen Peters said the project is extremely important for the environmental health of Barker Creek and Dyes Inlet.

“In addition, it will provide protection for the road itself, since material (sediment, logs) and water will be able to pass unimpeded through the new culvert,” Peters said. “The corridor of land around Barker Creek, including its estuary, was excluded from the Urban Growth Area.”

The most challenging aspect of the project was securing the necessary funding to make it a reality, Peters said.

“The two major challenges with the Barker Creek culvert replacement project were designing a project that could be built to withstand natural processes within the intertidal zone and to fulfill federal state and local rules and regulation requirements and securing the funding to build the project,” he said.

Mid Sound contracted GeoEngineers of Port Orchard to design the project and secured funding from the Salmon Recovery Board, the National Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Suquamish Tribe and a Bella Vista grant from the Chums of Barker Creek, he said.

“Each partner brought funding, or support for the project, and the collaboration went well,” he added. “The project would not have been built without everyone’s effort.”

While the road is expected to open next week, the final completion of the project isn’t expected until the end of January, he said, adding that the old culvert will be plugged to prevent further erosion to the road grade and private property.

“The positive project impacts will be immediate and began with the first tidal influx after the cofferdam was breached,” he said.

Based on similar east Kitsap bridge projects in Dogfish and Beaver creeks, Dorn said restoring Barker Creek will include protecting quality habitat when possible; involving property owners in low-impact development opportunities; removing the few remaining fish-blocking culverts upstream of the estuary; improving the quality of stormwater runoff entering the stream; reducing the quantity of stormwater runoff entering the streams; and implementing salmon enhancement strategies to re-populate the stream, if needed.

Also, implementing restoration actions like planting trees, adding wood structures to the stream, adding clean spawning gravel to some stretches of the stream to provide suitable salmon spawning habitat and restoring adjacent wetland connections.

“All of the above actions have been taken in various sections of Barker Creek already, but the more we continue to do, the greater the benefit to all fish, wildlife and citizens,” Dorn said.

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