Title: Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve Opening
Location: Directions to follow
Description: Come celebrate the opening of the new Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve Interpretive Site!
Start Time: 15:00
End Time: 17:00
Title: Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve Opening
Location: Directions to follow
Description: Come celebrate the opening of the new Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve Interpretive Site!
Start Time: 15:00
End Time: 17:00
Published September 15, 2008
A bid by Glacier Northwest to expand its sand and gravel mine in this historic village has reopened a decades-long land-use battle involving the Sequalitchew Creek Canyon, a conflict supposedly settled 15 years ago.
Glacier, one of the largest sand and gravel mining operations in the nation, wants to add 177 acres to its 335-acre mine to buy the company another 14 years of business, selling more than 250 sand and gravel products to customers across Puget Sound.
The project features construction of a new tributary to Sequalitchew Creek, feeding the lower reaches of the water-starved stream so it can once again support salmon in a 4,000-foot stretch.
“It’s an exciting project that would allow salmon to come back to the stream,” Glacier general manager Scott Nicholson said of the DuPont mine.
But the mine expansion also would take water from upper reaches of the creek and require a cut in the creek canyon to connect the man-made tributary to the stream.
Therein lies the problem.
In 1994, the mining company, environmental groups, DuPont, the state Department of Ecology and the Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Co. signed a landmark settlement agreement that allowed the mining company to build a gravel export dock at Tatsolo Point about 1.5 miles north of Sequalitchew Creek.
In return for a dock to load gravel barges, Lonestar Northwest, which later became Glacier Northwest, agreed to honor a buffer zone around the creek and canyon and forgo any activities that would “significantly impact” the flow of the creek.
The agreement laid to rest major land-use conflicts in the creek canyon and at the mouth of the creek where it empties into Puget Sound, a place Weyerhaeuser wanted to build a super port in the 1970s, much to the chagrin of environmentalists and supporters of the neighboring Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, which was created in 1974.
The Glacier project has breathed new life into a dormant, but once influential, environmental group called the Nisqually Delta Association, which helped broker the 1994 settlement.
“Taking water out of the upper reaches of the creek and then punching a hole in the wall of the canyon to dump the rerouted water is a nonstarter,” NDA president Tom Skjervold of Olympia said.
He said DuPont city officials and its residents should be working to protect and preserve the Sequalitchew Creek Canyon, a green belt that connects several historical sites that mark the birth of Western Washington settlement, including the 1832 Hudson’s Bay Co. Nisqually House at the mouth of the creek.
“Glacier has a gravel mine but DuPont has a gold mine of history here in the canyon,” Skjervold said.
Mine company officials insist their project won’t harm the historic features of the creek canyon and is true to the intent of the 1994 agreement.
“First, we are enhancing, not harming, the creek,” Glacier Northwest Vice President Mark Leatham said. “Second, we wouldn’t be mining in the bluff. We’re notching the bluff to get water back in the creek.”
Perhaps Glacier’s most powerful ally on the project is the Nisqually Tribe, which is eager to restore stream flows that haven’t supported fish for nearly 20 years.
“Here’s a project where you actually get water flowing back in the stream,” tribal natural resources director David Troutt said. “Glacier would be building something that would cost us millions and millions of dollars to do.”
With the tributary, Glacier permitting coordinator Pete Stolz estimated that the stream flows in the lower reach would jump from 2 cubic feet per second to 10 cfs while the upper section would drop from 1 cfs to 0.5 cfs.
Some city residents familiar with the stream and its history fear the mine expansion would partially drain Edmonds Marsh, a cornerstone wetland in the heart of DuPont. Stolz said studies suggest the damage to the marsh would be negligible.
Former DuPont Mayor Judy Krill said she could support the mine expansion, if all parties worked together to deal in a more comprehensive way to restore flows to Sequalitchew Creek. The creek has its headwaters on Fort Lewis and features a 1950s diversion dam and channel partly responsible for draining the creek. Complicating matters are water wells on the military reservation that reduce potential stream flows.
“But cutting a new stream channel through the canyon bluff? You can’t do that.” Krill said.
The new creek tributary would be gravity fed while any attempt to send that water back to the stream’s headwaters would require pumping and maintenance, Nicholson said.
Many DuPont residents in this south Pierce County town that’s tripled in population to 7,390 since 2000 don’t know about the creek and canyon corridor, let alone its rich history. City plans call for future public access along an existing trail, but it isn’t officially open to the public yet.
“The creek and canyon are something special that needs to be saved,” said DuPont resident Don Dresser, who is chairman of the city planning commission. “Walking in the canyon is almost like walking in the Olympic National Park rain forest. Hopefully we can work something out that is beneficial to everybody.”
Project supporters and opponents are still talking, but for how much longer is anybody’s guess.
The city has hired a consultant to review the project to get a second opinion on whether it is legally defensible under the 1994 agreement and consistent with city zoning laws and comprehensive plans. A city hearing examiner could rule on the case as soon as October, Nicholson said.
Meanwhile, the Nisqually Delta Association, Krill and others are poised to go to court, if the project isn’t amended to be consistent with the nearly 15-year-old settlement agreement.
Mining company officials insist their project design is critical to the mine expansion.
“Without the creek tributary, we couldn’t expand the mine,” Nicholson said.
This project removed a defunct wooden dam built in the 1930’s for a federal fish hatchery from Silver Creek, a tributary to the Upper White River. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided turbidity monitoring during the construction period and through a full cycle of low and high flows following the completion of the project. This project was completed in 2007 with help from our partner the U. S. Forest Service and funding provided by U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation.
Five salmon habitat restoration grants totaling $1.63 million have been approved for projects in Pierce County by the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board. The grants were among more than 103 individual projects funded statewide totaling $26.7 million in the fifth annual round of funding projects aimed at creating conditions that will allow salmon runs to return to historic levels.
“These projects are part of Pierce County Lead Entity Organization’s continuing efforts to improve the floodplain conditions for fish and citizens,” said Dan Wrye, program services manager for Pierce County Water Programs. “Healthy floodplains give us multiple benefits of reduced flooding, improved water quality and good quality of life. We were successful this year because of the dedication of members of our citizens and technical committees.
“Our goal for 2005 is to bring even more state and federal money to Pierce County for salmon habitat improvements. We encourage community groups, conservation groups, cities and others to submit project proposals to the Pierce County Lead Entity.”
Pierce County Water Programs is lead entity for three of the funded projects: $576,955 for buying land to protect salmon habitat near South Prairie, $297,500 for studying the feasibility of moving levees on the Puyallup, White and Carbon rivers, and $160,690 for designing a new creek that flows into the White River near Buckley. In addition, the Nisqually Tribe is lead entity for two funded projects: $502,600 for restoring and preserving the Mashell River near Eatonville and $124,950 for purchasing land for salmon habitat along the Nisqually River near McKenna.
- Along South Prairie Creek, the Cascade Land Conservancy in partnership with the Pierce Conservation District will buy and restore about 100 acres known as the Inglin Farm. The creek is the primary tributary to the Carbon River and is the most important salmon spawning area in the Puyallup watershed. The area accounts for nearly half of all the wild steelhead in the Puyallup River system, the only significant run of pink salmon, and important returns of Chinook, coho, chum salmon and sea-run cutthroat trout. The high quality habitat along the stream is threatened by increasing development. The conservancy, which will plant native plants to restore the area, will match the SBRB grant with $523,072 in cash and donated labor.
- The Pierce County Water Programs Division will create a comprehensive catalog of potential levee setback projects on the Puyallup, White, and Carbon rivers. Moving the levees would reconnect the rivers and floodplains, a top-priority restoration action. The study will pick project locations where features such as historic side-channels and hydrology indicate the likelihood that natural processes will act to create the desired habitat. Engineering concerns, land-use, hydrology and flood protection, cost, and landowner willingness will be evaluated along with habitat restoration for project prioritization. Conceptual designs will be evaluated and prioritized, and a few high priority projects will proceed through preliminary design. Pierce County Water Programs will provide a $52,500 match.
- King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks will design and obtain permits for a project to restore channel, floodplain, and shoreline conditions at the mouth of Boise Creek, a tributary to the White River near Buckley. Boise Creek is one of the largest producers of Chinook, coho and steelhead salmon of all the creeks entering the White River. This project would design the relocation of the lowest 500 feet of the creek into newly constructed channel about 1,200 feet in length. It also would restore the slope of the historic channel and create valuable salmon habitat. King County will match this grant with $53,564.
- The South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group will proceed with final design, permitting, construction, monitoring and purchase of conservation easements for restoration projects in four sections of the Mashell River near Eatonville. The Mashell River is an important spawning and rearing area for Chinook, steelhead and coho salmon. Projects will include purchasing easements on some land, enhancing fish habitat, improving shoreline plants, removing riprap near Smallwood Park and enhancing wetland and shoreline function at Eatonville’s sewage treatment plant outfall. The grant also will allow the salmon enhancement group to purchase conservation easements for at least six properties, which will permanently protect the floodplain area from development. The salmon enhancement group will partner with the Nisqually Watershed Education Project, Nisqually Stream Stewards and Pierce County Stream Team to engage volunteers in planting, maintenance and monitoring. The Nisqually Tribe will provide additional monitoring. The South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group will match this grant with $128,251 in cash and donated materials, labor and equipment.
- The Nisqually Land Trust will buy about 12 acres along the Nisqually River for permanent protection. The property is on Harts Lake Loop Road near McKenna. The land includes nearly 1/2 mile of meandering shoreline. The riparian shoreline habitat contains a large stand of mature trees on steep slopes along the river. The land trust will match this grant with $22,050.
Salmon, a Northwest icon, were placed on the federal list of endangered species in 1991, which set off a series of activities including formation of the Salmon Recovery Board to oversee the investment of state and federal funds for salmon recovery. Since 2000, the board has awarded $214.7 million in grants for 591 projects.
Pierce County has received a total of $7.1 million for 27 projects over the last five years.
CONTACT: Dan D.Wrye, Program Services Manager, 253-798-4672; Roy Huberd, Lead Entity Coordinator, 253-798-6793; or Dick Ferguson, Media and Community Relations, 253-798-3979
By Chester Allen and John Dodge, The Olympian |
BELFAIR STATE PARK – Environmental engineer Pat McCullough grinned as a bulldozer chewed away at a boulder-studded dike he can’t wait to tear down.
When that 1950s-era dike at Belfair State Park goes down sometime this week, Big Mission Creek will flow back into its natural streambed, 600 feet of Hood Canal shoreline and beach will return to a natural state, and an estuary that was filled in with 20,000 cubic feet of dirt 50 years ago will be reborn.
“We expect to quickly see salt marsh, pickleweed and grasses,” McCullough said. “The neat thing is that people will get to see and use a restored beach, and it’s good for salmon and Hood Canal.”
But McCullough, who oversees the project for the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, also feels a little guilty.
That’s because a short distance away is an investment house he owns that is tucked behind a $250,000 concrete bulkhead. McCullough and his business partners are afraid to tear down the bulkhead because they could lose half of the house’s valuable waterfront to salt water.
McCullough and his partners bought the house in June.
“Taking it out is not an option at this point,” McCullough said. “We own 750 feet of waterfront there, and 650 feet of it is bulkheaded.”
McCullough’s personal dilemma isn’t unusual around Puget Sound, where habitat loss from population growth and development has robbed dozens of Puget Sound plants, birds, fish and marine mammals of their homes, their food sources and the water quality they need to survive. For instance:
• About one-third of Puget Sound’s shoreline, or 800 miles, has been barricaded with bulkheads, dredged or filled in for human use, destroying valuable habitat that plants and animals need to survive.
• Since the 1880s, about 73 percent of Puget Sound’s salt marsh habitat has been lost, with the number approaching 100 percent in urban bays.
• More than 1,000 Puget Sound species are at risk – including 40 species listed on state or federal threatened and endangered species lists – or are candidates for special protection.
These are some of the reasons restoring and protecting Puget Sound habitat is a cornerstone of the Puget Sound Partnership’s emerging plan to restore Puget Sound health by 2020.
Bulkheads damage beaches and estuaries, which are nurseries for dozens of plants and animals, including struggling salmon runs. Beaches and estuaries are vital links in the complex web of life in Puget Sound.
But those same bulkheads keep increasingly valuable real estate intact. “That’s what makes it tougher to do anything about bulkheads in Puget Sound,” McCullough said. “People worry about losing their houses, and a lot of homes were built too close to the water.”
Nevertheless, a wide-ranging coalition of environmental groups, tribes and local, state and federal agencies is poised for a restoration of some of Puget Sound’s shorelines and estuaries.
The Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership recently awarded $2.5 million to nine restoration projects, including $200,000 for the Belfair State Park work.
The partnership has worked on a restoration plan since 2001.
Restoring Puget Sound’s nearshore habitat could eventually become one of the biggest environmental projects in U.S. history.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Army Corps of Engineers co-chair the partnership.
The partnership is a year away from releasing a report on how to restore beaches and estuaries, but the actual work is starting right now.
“We’re spinning out our early knowledge into projects,” said Curtis Tanner, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist and partnership project manager. “We also will monitor the projects and learn from them.”
Why bulkheads hurt
About 70 percent of Puget Sound’s intertidal wetlands – estuaries and marshes – has been lost to fill and dikes, Tanner said.
“Thirty to 90 percent of the shoreline is armored, depending on the region,” Tanner said.
In Thurston County, about half of the sandy and gravel beaches are armored with bulkheads, according to a 2005 shoreline assessment by Herrera Environmental Consultants.
Bulkheaded beaches and diked-off estuaries wreak havoc on many key species in the Puget Sound web of life – including herring, salmon, crabs and eelgrass.
A bulkheaded beach no longer gets silt and sand from the land, so waves and currents erode the beach into a steep, densely packed mass of rocks.
No fresh water oozes over the beach during low tides, which means the eggs of sand lance – an important baitfish and food for other fish – dry up and die.
As the beach gets steeper and harder, it resembles asphalt. The silty, sandy area just offshore washes away, and eelgrass beds have no place to set roots.
Eelgrass is vital spawning and nursery habitat for salmon, crabs, herring and dozens of other animals.
Take away the natural beaches, and you break the chain of life in Puget Sound, Tanner said.
“In the South Sound area, the marine bluffs feed the beach,” said Roger Geibelhaus, a Thurston County planner. “When you block that with a bulkhead, you starve the beach.”
Geibelhaus said about 90 percent of the proposed bulkhead permits the county reviews are to replace old bulkheads with new ones. County officials encourage property owners to look at alternatives but don’t require them to do so.
“We don’t encourage people to construct concrete walls,” he said. “We’re trying to get more woody debris in the tidal area.”
Estuaries – the places where rivers and streams empty into Puget Sound – form giant shallow, silty areas where aquatic plants, including eelgrass, grow. Estuaries and marshes are important habitat for young fish, crabs, shellfish and birds.
The loss of nearshore habitat – especially estuaries and beaches – interferes with the complex cycle of life in Puget Sound.
Without beaches and estuaries, Puget Sound will remain sick and could die, said Tim Smith, Fish and Wildlife’s representative on the partnership’s council.
Decades of work ahead
It took more than 100 years to armor Puget Sound’s shorelines, and it will take decades to bring the beaches, marshes and estuaries back. The project will take decades because there are so many armored beaches – and many people are afraid to tear down their bulkheads and risk their homes to the tide and storms, Tanner said.
But in many cases, the bulkhead isn’t needed and could be removed without putting property at risk, Tanner said.
“How do I, as a biologist, convince a landowner that this is what needs to be done?” Tanner asked.
“We need to be able to use a model and be able to say: ‘If you do this, this will happen,’ ” Smith said.
That’s why the nine early projects now under way are so important: They will demonstrate safe ways to restore beaches without wrecking homes, Smith said.
Restoring the beach, estuary and natural streambeds at Belfair State Park isn’t a risk, said Deborah Petersen, state parks environmental planner.
More than two years of studies went into the project, Petersen said.
A concrete tidal swimming area and some play areas will be lost, but the public will gain more than 2,000 feet of natural beach, a restored estuary and boosted salmon runs in Big Mission Creek and Little Mission Creek, Petersen said.
“It is a big step to pull armor off the shoreline,” Petersen said. “But we are confident that this is right.”
McCullough said Belfair State Park still will have grassy areas, bathrooms, parking lots and pathways.
“It will have all-natural beach,” McCullough said. “And, as the population of the state increases, access to places like Hood Canal will become more and more valuable.”
South Sound is home to some of the most significant estuary restoration work in Puget Sound.
Dike removal projects in the Nisqually and Skokomish river deltas should allow 1,100 acres of pasture land and freshwater marsh to revert to tidal-influenced estuaries.
“Preventing the Nisqually Delta from becoming Tacoma Tideflats South is one of the greatest successes in the Puget Sound cleanup effort,” said Nisqually Valley resident Howard Glastetter, referring to derailed plans decades ago to turn the Nisqually Delta into an industrial port.
Habitat restoration projects on Puget Sound beaches, shorelines and adjoining streams serve more than one purpose, said Betsy Peabody, executive director of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, a nonprofit group dedicated to restoring the native Olympia oyster.
“Habitat restoration – it’s all about building a constituency that can save this place,” Peabody said.
“It’s exciting, and it’s something people can connect to,” agreed Olympia City Councilman Doug Mah, a member of the Puget Sound Council, which directs the Puget Sound Action Team.
While restoring Puget Sound habitat is critical work, the need to preserve and protect the high-quality habitat that remains is just as important in the face of relentless population growth and development, said Eric Erler, executive director of the Olympia-based Capitol Land Trust.
The Puget Sound basin population of 4 million is expected to grow by 1 million in the next 20 years.
Thurston County could be home to nearly 400,000 people by 2025, more than the population of Miami today.
In the 2005-07 state budget, $572 million was allotted to protect Puget Sound and help it recover, including $51 million for restoring habitat and $27.3 million for protecting habitat.
“We’re not going to have these functioning places left in a few short years. They’ll either be developed or become too costly to purchase,” Erler said.
Since 1989, the Capitol Land Trust has conserved through easements, land donations and voluntary sales 2,400 acres in South Sound, including 6 miles of marine near-shore and nearby upland habitat on lower Eld Inlet, Gull Harbor and Oakland Bay in Mason County.
“Puget Sound estuaries are some of the most productive living systems on earth,” Erler said in explaining why their preservation and recovery is the land trust’s top conservation goal.
Environmental laws and land use controls play a role in restoring Puget Sound, too, according to the Puget Sound Environmental Caucus, a coalition of environmental and conservation groups.
One of the reasons so many shoreline property owners need bulkheads is that local governments allowed them to build too close to the shoreline and edges of marine bluffs in the first place. The environmental caucus is calling on Puget Sound cities and counties to protect marine shoreline habitat and upland shoreline vegetation through revisions to their critical areas ordinances.
The proposed Thurston County critical areas ordinance would feature a typical marine shoreline building setback of 100 feet, compared with the 50 feet on the books since 1990, Thurston County planning manager John Sonnen said.
“We’re trying to maintain water quality to protect shellfish and other marine life,” he said of the proposed wider buffers.
When the county rolled out changes in its critical areas ordinance last year, they were met with much resistance from property owners who said the changes restrict what they can do with their land.
It’s the same sentiment that’s behind Initiative 933, the measure on the November ballot that, if approved, would require local governments to pay property owners for lost use of their property from wider buffers, zoning changes and the like, or to waive the environmental rules and zoning that lead to the devalued property.
“The initiative would force counties and states to be creative,” said John Stuhlmiller, assistant director of government relations for the Washington Farm Bureau, a sponsor of the initiative. “We’re saying the greater social good can’t be at the expense of individuals.”
Those trying to implement Gov. Chris Gregoire’s Puget Sound Initiative, which calls for a clean, healthier Puget Sound by 2020, are concerned about the land use patterns Initiative 933 would allow in the Puget Sound basin.
“Initiative 933 would trump all the efforts under way to restore and protect Puget Sound,” said Puget Sound Action Team executive director Brad Ack.
Restoration projects and cost
Federal and state agencies, local environmental groups such as the South Sound Salmon Enhancement Group and the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, local governments and tribes have worked on beach and estuary restoration for years.
The Nisqually tribe’s restoration of the Nisqually River Delta – in partnership with the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge and state agencies – started in 1999.
But the Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership – a partnership among environmental groups, tribes, local governments and federal and state agencies – recently accelerated habitat restoration with $2.5 million in grants. The grants match other state, local and federal funding for a total value of $20 million of work.
The funded grants and projects include:
$385,140 for restoration of the Qwuloolt Marsh in Snohomish County. The project sponsor is the Tulalip tribes of Washington.
$241,589 to restore the Wiley Slough in Skagit County. The project sponsor is Skagit River System Cooperative.
$200,000 to breach a dike and restore natural river and tidal actions to the Snohomish River estuary. The sponsor is the city of Everett Public Works department.
$96,250 to create an outreach program to highlight the benefits for juvenile salmon of 990 feet of waterfront salmon habitat in Seattle at the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park. The sponsor is the Seattle Art Museum.
$200,000 to restore the Belfair State Park estuary, Big and Little Mission creeks and the beach. This project is in Mason County, and the sponsor is Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group.
$66,000 to pay for design work to restore Smuggler’s Slough in the Nooksack River estuary near Bellingham. The Lummi Indian Business Council is the project sponsor.
$76,500 to pay for studies that will lead to the restoration of 115 acres of intertidal wetlands on the Leque Island Wildlife Area, which is at the mouths of the West and South forks of the Stillaguamish River in Snohomish County. Ducks Unlimited is the project sponsor.
$990,296 to remove 3,650 feet of dike on the west side of Nalley Slough, remove an elevated road network and build an elevated boardwalk on the former Nalley Farm property on the Skokomish Indian Reservation near the mouth of the Skokomish River in Mason County. The Skokomish tribe is the project sponsor.
$65,000 to buy a conservation easement for 3 acres of forested bluff and 300 feet of natural Puget Sound shoreline near Normandy Park in King County. The Cascade Land Conservancy is the project sponsor.
By Richard M. Johnson
The jack salmon is looked at as either a fun fish to catch on an ultra light spinning rod, or the failure of a perfectly good fish to reach it’s potential. When I say “jack”, I’m referring to a precocious male salmon that decides to grow up in a hurry. It spends one year or less in salt water before returning to fresh water to spawn like the big boys. You may wonder why they mature so quickly and are they successful spawners? The answer to the first question is that this might be nature’s way of spreading out the genetic contribution of a particular brood year over several years. In the case of chinook salmon, the dominant year class is the age four group. However, some return at age two (jacks), some at age three, and there are even a few five year olds (six year old chinook are rare in the south Puget Sound watersheds). An environmental roadblock such as flooding or poor marine survival might limit the number of spawners in a given year. Fortunately, the jacks would have returned before the problem arose (take El Nino years as an example, when adultsalmon, especially coho, were hard hit due to poor feeding conditions). As to how jack salmon fare in the competitive world of reproduction – they have developed a special tactic that we know as the “sneak attack”. While the big brutes are jousting for the right to sire the eggs of an unsuspecting female, the jack waits in the shadows and races in at just the opportune moment to add some of his own milt to the pot. In spite of its diminutive size (one to four pounds), the jack is governed by the same biological clock as its bigger adversaries. It dies shortly after spawning, and its carcass decomposes, putting important nutrients back into the stream.
Despite the importance of jacks in nature, fisheries managers are constantly trying to figure out ways to prevent jacking in hatchery stocks. More jacks means fewer adults back to the rack for spawning (and fewer adults available for harvest). There appears to be a nutritional link to precocious maturation such that the faster the growth of juvenile fish, the higher the jacking rate. It follows that salmon that go through “extended” rearing in the hatchery, where they receive plentiful, high quality rations, tend to have a higher rate of jacking than fish that rear in the wild the same length of time. High concentrations of forage fish available to young salmon in the marine estuary or nearby vicinity could result in jacking due to the rapid growth experienced by the voracious feeders. Genetics, as well, plays a role in determining precocity. More jacks in the spawning population results in more jacks in the offspring. Generally, about 3 to 10 percent of the naturally produced males mature as jacks, depending on species and location.
In spite of the fact that a jack will never attain the size to make it a prized sport fish or a brawny super-stud on the spawning ground, a good showing of jacks is often used as a predictor of a good adult return the following year. That makes them worth their weight in gold.
July 3, 2005
Section: Saving Salmon
CARLYON BEACH — The terraced rock wall interspersed with mostly native trees and plants in front of Jack Charneski’s summer home is an island in a sea of concrete bulkheads that armor the Carlyon Beach shoreline along Squaxin Passage.
While the project is an engineered attempt to keep the shoreline from eroding away, it’s viewed as more environmentally friendly than a concrete wall.
And for some, it represents a small step toward a sea change that will be necessary in property owner attitudes about living on the shoreline, if the region is serious about restoring and protecting Puget Sound chinook and other salmon species.
“Eventually, a lot of these concrete bulkheads will be coming out,” predicted Dean Edenstrom of Edenstrom Landscape in Olympia.
The Puget Sound chinook recovery plan for South Sound, which will be forwarded to the federal government July 7 by the nonprofit group Shared Strategy for Puget Sound, calls for a variety of near-shore work totaling $100 million during the next five years on seven miles of shoreline annually. The work includes:
“We need to create a new mental image of what living on the shoreline is all about,” said Steve Morrison, a senior planner with Thurston Regional Planning Council.
Here’s why concrete bulkheads are viewed as an obstacle to salmon recovery in South Sound:
Heavily armored shorelines cut off the complex interaction between the beach and the uplands.
Natural erosion along the shoreline, which bulkheads are designed to stop, is what feeds the beaches with sand and gravel and creates the habitat, including woody debris and overhanging branches, critical for a functioning near-shore environment, according to state Fish and Wildlife habitat biologist Margie Schirato.
It is in these near-shore areas that forage fish such as sand lance, herring and surf smelt spawn. All are species that provide food for salmon.
Yet more than half of the Thurston County shoreline with gravel and sand beaches is armored, according to a 2005 shoreline assessment by Herrera Environmental Consultants. In the entire Puget Sound region shoreline, concrete and rocks cover 33 percent of the shoreline, according to the Shared Strategy plan.
“South Sound is starting to look like a bathtub,” commented John Evans of Bay Marine Consultants, an Olympia area contractor who specializes in bulkhead replacement projects that rely on combinations of wood debris, logs, rocks and plantings.
“It’s still a hard sell to the property owner,” he said of the move away from concrete bulkheads. “Private property owners need to see some successful projects.”
Studies by Nisqually and Squaxin Island tribe biologists have shown South Sound to be a critical nursery area for juvenile chinook salmon from other watersheds in central Puget Sound.
So while the Nisqually River is the only true birthplace for naturally spawning chinook in South Sound, the rest of South Sound has a key role in chinook salmon recovery, too, said former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Bill Ruckelshaus, one of the people behind Shared Strategy for Puget Sound, the nonprofit group overseeing development of the recovery plan.
“The South Sound focus should be on habitat,” Ruckelshaus said.
At the same time, a team of scientists who reviewed the South Sound plan said it needs more work on the effect of hatchery fish and salmon harvesting in South Sound.
“We’re still working on the harvest and hatchery elements of the plan,” said Jeff Dickison, a policy analyst with the Squaxin Island tribe.
More space to the shore
Instead of building as close to the shoreline as possible, and clearing all the trees and shrubs for unrestricted views, Thurston County property owners since 1990 have been required to build 50 feet back from the edge, and are encouraged to preserve native trees and plants wherever possible.
The typical setback would increase to 100 feet under a proposed amendment to the county critical areas ordinance that will be ready for public review in August, said John Sonnen, county planning manager.
“We’re trying to avoid the need to armor the shoreline,” Sonnen said.
Setbacks for homes along rivers and streams would more than double from the existing 100 feet under the amendments under review, Sonnen added.
The existing setbacks for marine shorelines and rivers have been working well and shouldn’t be expanded without strong evidence the changes are needed, said Thurston County homebuilder Greg Amendala.
“They say they are using best available science, but they’re often experimenting at the homeowner’s expense,” he said.
For the thousands of Puget Sound property owners such as Charneski, whose homes were built next to the beach years ago before the shoreline rules were in place, a long-term bulkhead replacement program is crucial to restoring beach habitat, Dickison said.
“We need a combination of tools to reach different property owners, maybe including a tax incentive for shoreline owners to take out bulkheads,” Dickison said.
But in many cases, the close proximity of the home to the beach limits the options, Edenstrom noted.
“People are afraid of losing their land,” Edenstrom said of the erosion threat.
Charneski took his bulkhead out because the base was eroding away from the pressure of water draining from the uplands to the beach.
“All these concrete bulkheads really have a dam effect along the beach,” he said.
He hired Edenstrom to tear out the bulkhead and replace it with 150 tons of strategically placed granite rock laced with gravel, sand and 11 species of plants and trees.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Edenstrom said. “It’s better than a vertical wall that chokes off the beach. It allows for interaction between people, the upland environment and the beach.”
Fish and Wildlife’s Schirato, agreed but was quick to point out that the rock wall is still a hardening of the shoreline that won’t encourage erosion to feed the beach.
The South Sound recovery plan calls on public agencies to lead the way with some bulkhead replacement projects so property owners can see them work.
“The problem is: We know we don’t want concrete bulkheads, but we’re not sure what the options are,” said Steve Hulbert, owner of Hulbert Auto Park in Olympia and a Johnson Point area waterfront resident.
When shopping for a waterfront home five years ago, Hulbert steered clear of homes on the market that had concrete bulkheads.
“I wanted to interact with the beach, the birds, the oysters and the fish habitat,” he said.
Copyright (c) The Olympian. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.
By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 30, 2005; A21
PORTLAND, Ore. — In a surgical strike from Capitol Hill, Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) has eliminated a little-known agency that counts endangered fish in the Columbia River.
The Fish Passage Center, with just 12 employees and a budget of $1.3 million, has been killed because it did not count fish in a way that suited Craig.
“Data cloaked in advocacy create confusion,” Craig said on the Senate floor this month, after successfully inserting language in an energy and water appropriations bill that bans all future funding for the Fish Passage Center. “False science leads people to false choices.”
Here in Portland, Michele DeHart, a fish biologist who is the longtime manager of the center, said she is not mad at Craig.
“What’s the point?” asked DeHart, 55, who for nearly 20 years has run the agency that keeps score on the survival of endangered salmon as they negotiate federal dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers.
“I have never met the man,” she said. “Never talked to him. No one from his office ever contacted us. I guess I am flabbergasted. We are biologists and computer scientists, and what we do is just math. Math can’t hurt you.”
But the mathematics of protecting salmon swimming in the nation’s largest hydroelectric system can hurt your pocketbook — particularly in the Northwest, where dams supply power to four out of five homes, more than anywhere in the country.
Salmon math has clearly riled up Craig, who in his last election campaign in 2002 received more money from electric utilities than from any other industry and who has been named “legislator of the year” by the National Hydropower Association.
The Fish Passage Center has documented, in excruciating statistical detail, how the Columbia-Snake hydroelectric system kills salmon. Its analyses of fish survival data also suggest that one way to increase salmon survival is to spill more water over dams, rather than feed it through electrical turbines.
This suggestion, though, is anathema to utilities — and to Craig — because water poured over dams means millions of dollars in lost electricity generation.
Last summer, a federal judge in Portland, using data and analysis from the Fish Passage Center, infuriated the utilities. He ordered that water be spilled over federal dams in the Snake River to increase salmon survival. Shortly after Judge James A. Redden issued his order, Craig began pushing to cut all funding for the Fish Passage Center.
“Idaho’s water should not be flushed away on experimental policies based on cloudy, inexact assumption,” Craig said in a news release.
On the Senate floor this month, he justified elimination of the Fish Passage Center on the grounds that “many questions have arisen regarding the reliability of the technical data” it publishes. Craig quoted from the report of an independent scientific advisory board that in 2003 reviewed work done by the Fish Passage Center.
But one of the report’s authors, Charles C. Coutant, a fishery ecologist who retired this year from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said Craig neglected to mention that the board found the work of the center to be “of high technical quality.”
“Craig was very selective in reflecting just the critical part of a quotation from the report,” said Coutant, who has worked on Columbia River salmon issues for 16 years. “It did give a misleading impression about our board’s view of the Fish Passage Center.”
Craig also said on the Senate floor that “other institutions” in the Northwest now do “most” of the data collection work done by center. He said getting rid of the center would reduce redundancy and increase the efficiency of regional fish programs.
But according to another recent independent scientific assessment of the work of the center, there was little duplication of data collection between the center and other organizations; it recommended that the center continue to receive funding to meet a substantial need in the Northwest for information on salmon survival.
Fish and game agencies in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, Indian tribes with fishing rights on the river and the governors of Oregon and Washington have all said that eliminating the Fish Passage Center is a bad idea that would reduce the quality of information on endangered salmon.
Echoing a number of regional experts on salmon recovery, Jeffrey P. Koenings, director of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department, said in a letter to the regional congressional delegation that it makes no economic sense to kill the center. “Eliminating or reducing funding for the Fish Passage Center will actually increase salmon recovery costs, as the states and tribes will need additional staff to replace the lost functions,” he wrote.
Money for the center has come from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a federal agency that sells power from federal dams. In 1980, Congress passed a law ordering that salmon in the Columbia hydro-system receive “equitable treatment,” along with electricity generation, irrigation and barge transport. BPA was compelled to fund the Fish Passage Center in 1984 as part of the effort to ensure equitable treatment for fish.
Craig blocked this funding mechanism by inserting a sentence in an energy and water spending bill that says, “The Bonneville Power Administration may make no new obligations in support of the Fish Passage Center.”
Here in Portland, DeHart said she did not want to speculate about Craig’s motives. “I guess it is just that old cliche about killing the messenger,” said DeHart, whose office will close in March.
Other prominent players in the region’s decades-old salmon vs. power debate are less reticent.
Don Chapman, an Idaho fisheries biologist who has worked for regional utilities, state agencies and environmental groups, wrote Craig a letter accusing him of bad faith. “I state flatly that your attempt to dismantle the Fish Passage Center is wrongheaded and vindictive,” he wrote.
Asked about these charges, Craig’s spokesman, Dan Whiting, responded by e-mail: “This is about improving the program, taking advocacy out of science and ensuring we have dams and salmon in the Northwest. It is not about vindictiveness or retribution by Sen. Craig — that is not his style.”
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
Art takes spawning lesson to new level
LACEY — Shannon Andino and Brandon Meyer’s descriptions of Kennedy Creek during salmon spawning season are deceptively simple.
“Dead salmon,” Brandon said.
“The water was milky,” Shannon said of the fertilization process. “I know that sounds kind of weird.”
But last month’s field trip won’t be a fleeting memory for the eighth-graders and their classmates in the mixed classes of teachers An-nette Wells, language arts, and Jenna Glock, science.
The seventh- and eighth-graders have captured the science lessons of that trip in art and poetry that will be on display Thursday at Komachin Middle School. It is an example of Komachin’s emphasis on combining different school subjects to tie classroom lessons to real life.
One of Shannon’s poems, “The Flow,” describes her impression: “Love hides in the eggs that are produced by a female salmon.”
Her illustration shows a pink salmon wrapping itself around a cluster of eggs.
Brandon drew pictures of salmon under tall trees. He wrote: “This is why the salmon come back, They come back to die in a beauti-ful graveyard, They die in peace, They’re not afraid of what’s yet to come.”
Everyone at the school, which combines the seventh- and eighth-grade classes, took part in the assignment. The science and lan-guage arts teachers, who work in teams that also include social studies and math teachers, accompanied their classes to Kennedy Creek to watch the process of salmon reaching their spawning ground, where they die shortly after breeding.
“Each student got to see salmon spawning, and they looked at the scientific part of it,” language arts teacher Wells said.
Students saw aggressive male salmon throwing their bodies over others. They saw carcasses of salmon, which die after laying eggs or fertlizing them, lining the creek bed.
Students were impressed by what they saw, and they took notes in their journals, Wells said. Then, they transformed what they saw, smelled and heard into powerful, single-sentence descriptions.
Wells invited artist Susan Burnham to teach her students how to incorporate those images into artwork. The descriptions were transformed into poetry.
Komachin encourages “cross-curricular” learning, or lessons that span different subject areas, principal Troy Oliver said.
“They’re learning, studying ecosystems; they study the salmon,” Oliver said.
“So instead of writing a poem about a random thing, let’s tie it in with what we’re doing with science,” he said.
Eighth-grader Shelby Collins, 14, said crossing the subjects allows students to be creative.
“I like the incorporation between science and language arts,” she said.
Reach Venice Buhain at 360-754-5445 or email@example.com.
From The Olympian, January 7, 2006:
$4 million doled out to South Sound groups
Projects to help Salmon
BY JOHN DODGE
Fourteen South Sound salmon recovery projects totaling $4 million were funded Friday by the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board.
The money came from an equal share of federal and state grants that are doled out to tribes, local governments and nonprofit groups once a year.
This year, projects around the state valued at $40 million vied for a total of $26.6 million, according to Bill Ruckelshaus, chairman of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board.
Money is primarily used to buy sensitive salmon habitat, replace fish-blocking road culverts and restore shorelines, estuaries and streams.
“There’s always some disgruntled people when there’s not enough money to go around,” Ruckelshaus said.
South Sound salmon recovery efforts fared particularly well in this year’s grant competition, said David Troutt, natural resources director for the Nisqually Tribe.
The Nisqually Tribe received $1.1 million to restore Ohop Creek, a major tributary to the Nisqually River.
Over the years, 3.3 miles of the creek have been ditched and straightened. The money will be used, with the support of 18 private landowners, to restore the engineered stream to a natural meandering stream, covering 5.3 miles, said Jeanette Dorner, salmon recovery program manager for the tribe.
Working with the landowners and eight other partners, the tribe will improve habitat for chinook, steelhead, pink, coho and chum salmon.
It’s one of the largest freshwater habitat restoration projects ever attempted in the Puget Sound region, Dorner said.
Also in the Nisqually River Basin, the Nisqually Land Trust received more than $560,000 for two land acquisitions, including 20 acres near Powell Creek in Thurston County and about 70 acres near Mashel River State Park.
Ellis Creek project
The city of Olympia secured $598,000, which will be combined with $500,000 of city money for a major Ellis Creek culvert replacement project under East Bay Drive at Priest Point Park.
The project will open up about one-half mile of spawning habitat for coho salmon in 2007, city project manager Roy Iwai said.
The second phase of the project, a $708,900 Ellis Creek culvert replacement project on Gull Harbor Road, which would open up another mile of salmon habitat, was not funded.
Another major project will take place at Belfair State Park on Hood Canal. The Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group received $512,950 to restore 8.1 acres of estuary and salt marsh wetlands at the park. The salmon enhancement group already has secured nearly $1.9 million in other funds for the project.
The Cascade Land Conservancy will use $248,876 to do restoration work and purchase a land protection agreement for about 150 acres of the Richert Ranch near the confluence of the north and south forks of the Skokomish River.
The project will protect and restore habitat for two endangered species, chinook and summer chum salmon.
The South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group received $410,000 to replace an undersize culvert at Jarrell Cove on Harstine Island to improve a tidal estuary used by coho, chum and coastal cutthroat trout.
The South Puget Sound group also received $95,000 to remove a 110-foot-long bulkhead across from Frye Cove County Park in Eld Inlet. Beach habitat will be improved for fish that salmon eat. Large rocks and woody debris will be installed to increase beach diversity and protect a marine bluff from erosion.
Bulkhead removal projects are identified as a key component of the South Sound salmon recovery plan.
In addition, the salmon enhancement group secured $104,500 to remove several tons of concrete, pilings and an old bridge in the Skookum Inlet estuary near Skookum Creek. Large woody debris and salt marsh plants will be added to the 2-acre site to improve habitat for forage fish, coastal cutthroat trout, coho and chinook.
The Squaxin Island Tribe received $94,810 to restore freshwater salmon habitat along a one-mile stretch of Skookum Creek.
John Dodge covers the environment and energy for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5444 or firstname.lastname@example.org.