CHIMACUM – Dump trucks began hauling away thousands of yards of fill material from Chimacum Beach this week as work got under way to restore the shoreline as a refuge for young salmon.
Once used as a log-storage yard, the 12-acre site in Jefferson County near the mouth of Chimacum Creek is now a beachhead in the effort to restore Hood Canal summer chum salmon runs, listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Work on the project, scheduled for completion by May 1, is being managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), which purchased the property in 2000 specifically for the purpose of restoring the natural shoreline.
WDFW is financing the project with a $470,000 grant from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board, said Doris Small, a habitat biologist for the department.
“Local citizens have been working to recover salmon runs in this area for more than a decade,” Small said. “This project builds on those efforts by restoring the saltwater rearing area near the mouth of Chimacum Creek, where juvenile salmon can feed and grow before moving out into deeper water.”
Small said the project also will improve public access to 3,000 feet of beach at the site, which abuts Irondale Park on Port Townsend Bay. WDFW is working closely with Jefferson County Parks and Recreation officials to ensure the compatibility of both properties, she said.
“This project will have benefits for people as well as fish and wildlife,” Small said.
For safety reasons, public access will be restricted through April during construction at the WDFW property, but the county park will remain open, she said.
During that time, workers will remove an estimated 21,000 cubic yards of dirt and debris from the project site, deposited there over several decades when the property was used as a log-salvage yard. After a competitive bidding process, Seton Construction Inc. of Port Townsend won the contract to excavate and recontour the beach.
“Once the fill material is removed, the water, wind and tides will basically finish the work of returning the beach to its natural state of sand and gravel,” Small said.
Once restored, the shoreline will provide a haven for juvenile chum salmon after they pass down Chimacum Creek and enter the saltwater in late winter, said Small, noting that the creek also supports coho salmon, cutthroat trout and steelhead. Less than an inch long, the young fish find both food and refuge among the eelgrass beds of the nearshore area.
“Our goal is basically to return the beach to the condition it was in before it was filled for industrial development,” Small said. “A natural beach will have lasting benefits for area residents as well as salmon and other marine life.”