OLYMPIA - Buildings, septic systems, ditches and a bulkhead were recently removed from shorefront property on eastern Hood Canal in a collaborative effort to restore one of the hundreds of small estuaries in Puget Sound lost to development.
The 120-acre property, located south of Seabeck in Kitsap County, is the site of a new mid-sized, "pocket" estuary and salt marsh reconstructed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the NOAA Restoration Center - a division of NOAA Fisheries dedicated to restoring the nation’s coastal, marine and migratory fish habitats.
The property was acquired by DNR in 2008 from a private landowner for inclusion in the Stavis Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA), a 3,700-acre area managed by the land-management agency for the protection of native forests and shorelines along Hood Canal.
"This is the first example I know of in Puget Sound where public funds were used to acquire and restore an entire creek mouth that had been completely destroyed in the past," said Paul Cereghino, WDFW program manager. "When allowed to function in their natural state, these nearshore areas provide unique environments that support our state’s fish and wildlife. Studies show we’ve lost at least 300 of these pocket estuaries throughout Puget Sound to development."
Funding for the project is coordinated through the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program (ESRP), a program established as part of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s Puget Sound Initiative to support on-the-ground projects aimed at protecting and restoring the region’s shoreline ecosystem. WDFW administers the program and provided $132,000 in construction funds for the project, which also received a total of $183,000 from DNR and The Nature Conservancy.
Since ESRP’s inception in 2006, WDFW has awarded funds for 48 restoration projects in Puget Sound, including the Stavis project. Through a regional grant competition, the ESRP accepts applications from non-governmental organizations, private and public corporations, and federal, state, local and tribal governments.
The program’s approach is based on the work of the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Project - an ongoing effort led by WDFW to develop a science-based, regional strategy for restoring shorelines in Puget Sound.
Cereghino said this ecosystem-based approach has earned the program a three-year partnership with the NOAA Restoration Center, which provided critical funding and technical assistance for the Hood Canal project.
"This project is the product of strong state-federal partnerships that we’ve been developing since 2001 and is exactly the kind of partnerships we need to meet the challenges facing Puget Sound," said Lisa Veneroso, WDFW’s intergovernmental lead and ESRP supervisor. "WDFW is committed to providing the technical leadership and expertise in ecosystem-based management of our public trust resources."
The restored stream channel flows into Hood Canal through property previously developed by private landowners. Following purchase by the state, buildings and other materials were removed and recycled and the land was reshaped to match the natural forms of similar estuaries in Hood Canal. Final construction of the new stream channel was completed in September, allowing fresh water to flow naturally into the rebuilt estuary. The site will also be replanted with native vegetation.