"Salmonberry Creek gets $288,000"
June 12, 2008 · Updated 10:18 AM
"State Fish and Wildlife and the Mid-Sound Fisheries Enhancement group are teaming up to get some groove back into Salmonberry Creek.The state Salmon Recovery Funding Board recognized the dire straits faced by salmon swimming up Salmonberry Creek and granted $288,000 to the Mid-Sound Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group to excavate some meander, build some imitation beaver ponds and add woody debris to the straight stream.The Mid-Sound Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group met the Salmon Recovery Funding Board's grant with 17 percent in matching funds. Fish and Wildlife has already submitted permit applications to begin repairing the creek.On a given day, blue herons gaze regally over non-native reed canary grass and spirea that have taken over the valley - brought in years ago by the state Department of Transportation to control erosion. Eagles perch on a single tree that stands atop a mound in the creek. Widgeons take flight and land in unison, skidding across the ponds peppered throughout the valley.Hundreds of years ago, Salmonberry Creek ran through a wetland that was probably part of a cedar forest, said Fish and Wildlife area habitat biologist Jeff Davis.The cedar was likely logged by farmers, who needed the flat, even land to pasture dairy cattle. Salmonberry Creek was carved into a channel to help drain water from the wetland. Over the years, the effects of logging the cedar and channelizing the stream have had a negative impact on salmon, which still swim up the stream every year.Each rainy season, Salmonberry Creek floods its banks and fills channels that zig-zag throughout the wetland. Salmon swim outside the banks of Salmonberry Creek and become snagged in the reed canary grass and spirea. The salmon get trapped and don't make it back out to spawn, Davis said. We're losing about 300 adult coho a year out there. That's a significant number of spawners for a little system like that.Residents who live near Salmonberry Creek have been maintaining the wetland for years, excavating the channels and cutting back some of the grasses. Davis said Fish and Wildlife and the Mid-Sound Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group will use the Salmon Recovery Funding Board's grant to piggy-back onto the work they have already started.Once permits are secured, Fish and Wildlife will bring an excavator into the wetland to carve a meander back into Salmonberry Creek's path to slow the rate of water flowing through the stream.As impervious surfaces, like parking lots, roofs and roads, crop up in developing areas, water increasingly has less of a chance to percolate through the soil. That percolating factor controls the rate at which stormwater enters a creek or stream. It also ensures a relatively constant flow of water through drier summer months.Without stormwater management measures, water flows rapidly from hard surfaces directly into streams, scouring the bottoms of the creekbeds and leaving little water to trickle into the stream during the summer.In a channelized creek like Salmonberry, stormwater accelerates down the stream, creating essentially a flume, depositing silt and other sediment as it goes. If salmon have laid eggs in the creekbed, they can be crushed or dislodged by the rapidly running water and sediment.And because of the scouring action of the sediment as it travels downstream, hiding places for fry are often carried away.That run-off likely increased the size of the wetland surrounding Salmonberry Creek and made it uninhabitable to native cedars, which need a somewhat drier environment in which to thrive, while simultaneously contributing to the overgrowth of non-native flora. There's no canopy over the creek and it's a low gradient, so it's like a lake, Davis said. Grasses don't provide sufficient shade over streams. Fry need temperatures to fall within a fairly narrow, cool window in order to live. With no shade over the stream, the temperatures grow too hot.In addition to carving some meander into the stream, Davis said Fish and Wildlife and the Mid-Sound Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group will build some mimicked beaver ponds which, in nature, serve as rearing sites for juvenile salmon. They also will add some woody debris to the creek to stabilize the banks, slow the water, provide a place for juvenile fish to hide and create a food source. Wood in a stream provides stability in a channel. Without it ... it's just a straight shot down to saltwater, Davis said.He expects to see the whole water system - from Long Lake to Puget Sound - restored to a state that could someday support vibrant, healthy runs of salmon.Kitsap County is currently doing repair work on the portion of stream near historic Howe Farm and replacing a culvert at Cool Creek.The Kitsap Stream Team is working with the Clover Valley Golf and Country Club to repair a portion of the stream that runs near the golf course.With the work the Mid-Sound Regional Fisheries group is doing, about 90 percent of Salmonberry Creek could see some restoration work in the near future.When all is said and done, Davis said, the wetland should more closely resemble the natural environment it did before it was logged and cleared for pasture. Some people think, 'What was it like 50 years ago?' I think that's short-sighted. I think, 'What was it like 100 years ago? 200 years ago?' The project is to restore nature to a natural environment. And that's something we struggle with. My philosophy is to restore areas prior to settlement. We'll never pull out cities, but that makes it that much more important, he said. Salmon is an indicator of the health of our environment. The more species we list, the closer we get to (ourselves). "