Excavation started today on a $1.3-million project to reshape
and restore Harper Estuary in South Kitsap.
It is a project that I’ve been discussing since 2001, when
former Harper resident Chuck Hower first introduced me to the idea,
a concept that he had been promoting with state and federal
Kitsap Sun, Feb. 2, 2001.)
Orion Marine Contractors was the successful bidder among six
companies that offered bids on the project to remove much of the
fill material placed in and around the estuary. The amount of soil
to be removed is estimated at more than 15,000 cubic yards, or
enough to fill roughly 1,000 dump trucks.
“The work will restore (the estuary) to levels conducive to
marsh establishment,” said Doris Small of the Washington Department
of Fish and Wildlife. The project will recover a spit, reconnect
saltwater to an impounded wetland and remove a bulkhead and old
“relic” road that impounds the wetland, she said.
It’s always nice when I can report a little good news for Puget
Sound recovery. For the second year in row, we’ve seen more
shoreline bulkheads ripped out than new ones put in.
After officials with the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife completed their compilation of permit data for 2015, I can
say that 3,097 feet of old armoring were removed, while 2,231 feet
Scientific evidence is mounting that bulkheads cause
considerable harm to the shoreline environment, affecting salmon
and many other species integral to the Puget Sound food web.
As I pointed out in a story published this week in the Encyclopedia of
Puget Sound, we cannot say whether the armoring removed has
restored more valuable habitat than what was destroyed by new
structures. But we can hope that’s the case, since state and
federal governments have targeted restoration funding toward high
priority habitats. They include shorelines used by forage fish,
such as surf smelt and sand lance, as well as feeder bluffs, which
deliver sands and gravels needed for healthy beaches.
One problem with the data, which officials hope to improve in
the future, is that we don’t know whether the new bulkheads being
built are the standard concrete or rock bulkheads or the
less-damaging “soft-shore” projects. Unlike hard armor, soft-shore
projects are designed to absorb wave energy by sloping the beach
and placing large rocks and logs in strategic locations. It’s not a
perfect solution, but it is a reasonable compromise where armoring
is truly needed.
A European green crab, one of the most dreaded invasive species
in the world, has finally arrived in Puget Sound.
A single adult green crab was caught in a trap deployed on San
Juan Island by a team of volunteers involved in a regionwide effort
to locate the invasive crabs before they become an established
Until now, green crabs have never been found in Puget Sound,
although they have managed to establish breeding populations along
the West Coast — including Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor in
Washington and the western side of Vancouver Island in British
Here’s what I wrote: “Puget Sound has so far avoided an
invasion of European green crabs — at least none have been found —
but the threat could be just around the corner….
“Green crabs are but one of the invasive species threatening
Washington state, but they are getting special attention because of
fears they could seriously affect the economy and ecosystem of
Puget Sound. Besides devouring young native crabs and shellfish,
they compete for food with a variety of species, including fish and
In Canada, one breeding population has been identified in Sooke
Inlet near the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island. That’s about
40 miles away from Westcott Bay, where Puget Sound’s first green
crab was found on Tuesday.
It is likely that the crab traveled to San Juan Island in its
early free-swimming larval form by drifting with the currents, said
Jeff Adams, a marine ecologist for Washington Sea Grant who manages
the Crab Team of volunteers. This crab likely settled down in
suitable habitat and located enough food to grow into an adult.
Based on the crab’s size, it probably arrived last year, Jeff told
Finding a green crab in Puget Sound is alarming, Jeff said, but
it is a good sign that the first crab was found by the volunteer
monitors. That suggests that the trapping program is working. If
this first crab turns out to be a single individual without a mate,
then the threat would die out, at least for now.
The concern is that if one crab can survive in Puget Sound, then
others may also be lurking around, increasing the chance of
male-female pairing. The next step is to conduct a more extensive
trapping effort in the area where the first green crab was found,
then branch out to other suitable habitats in the San Juan Islands,
Jeff said. The expanded effort is planned for the week of Sept. 11
and will include a search for molts — the shells left behind when
crabs outgrow their exoskeletons and enter a new stage of
Researchers and others who work with invasive species quickly
recovered from their initial surprise at finding a green crab in
Puget Sound, then got down to business in planning how to survey
for crabs and manage their potential impacts.
Allen Pleus, coordinator of the Aquatic Invasive Species Program
at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told me several
weeks ago that if green crabs show up in Puget Sound, one idea
would be to conduct an extensive trapping program to eradicate or
at least reduce their population. First, however, the extent of the
infestation must be identified. I expect that more extensive
trapping will be planned next spring and summer to look for
offspring from any successful mating in the San Juan Islands.
This video shows a green crab found in Willapa Bay on the
Typically, green crabs are found in marshy areas, which are
habitats extensively used by our native hairy shore crab. But Jeff
tells me that some populations of green crabs seem to be expanding
their habitat into more exposed rocky areas.
With roughly 400 suitable sites for the crabs in Puget Sound,
invasive species experts are calling for everyone who visits a
beach to look for green crabs and their molts. One can learn to
identify green crabs from the
Washington Sea Grant website. The volunteer trapping program is
funded by the Environmental Protection Agency with a grant to Fish
A public discussion about green crabs and how people can help
protect Puget Sound from an invasion is scheduled for Sept. 13 at
Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island. See Crab
Team Public Presentation.
The Harper Estuary restoration project is finally coming
together, with one contractor being hired for culvert removal,
others bidding for the excavation work and engineers completing the
designs for a new bridge.
Since June, the first phase of the project has been divided into
two parts. The first actual construction will involve the
replacement of a 24-inch culvert that carries Harper Creek under
Southworth Drive. The new structure will be a three-sided,
open-bottom culvert that spans 16 feet across the stream.
Bids were opened, and a contractor has been preliminarily
selected, said Doris Small, project coordinator for the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife. A meeting has been scheduled for
Tuesday to iron out the final details and award the contract, she
The work must be completed by Oct. 15, so things will progress
rapidly, she said. An announcement will be made soon regarding a
temporary detour on Southworth Drive.
The remainder of the first phase involves the excavation of dirt
and other debris used to fill in the estuary years ago. The project
has been reduced slightly in size from the original design,
reducing water contact in certain spots, Doris told me. Also, an
analysis of the soils to be removed concluded that some of the fill
material is contaminated at such a low level that it can be used as
fill elsewhere or sent to a composting facility.
Bids will be taken on the excavation project until Sept. 13, and
the work must be done before the middle of February.
The design of a new 120-foot-long bridge on Olympiad Drive is
between 60 and 90 percent complete. Applications have been
submitted for several grants to complete the project, primarily
construction of the new bridge. The bridge will replace a 36-inch
culvert where the road crosses the estuary. The design includes
access for people to walk down to the water, and it can be used to
launch small hand-carried boats.
As I described in
Water Ways in June, the existing makeshift boat launch must be
removed to allow the restored estuary to function properly. I am
told, however, that county officials are still looking for a nearby
site to build a new boat launch with access for trailered
If grants are approved to cover the cost, the bridge could be
under construction next summer, Doris said. The total estimated
cost of the entire restoration is now $7 million, with $4.1 million
approved from a mitigation fund related to contamination from the
Asarco smelter in Tacoma.
We hear about the “balance of nature,” but it’s not something
that we can truly understand until the balance is thrown out of
whack by something like climate change or invasive species.
Until I began a recent reporting project for Puget
Sound Institute, I never realized that San Francisco Bay was
such a hotbed of invasive species. Beginning with the California
Gold Rush, ships began moving in and out of the bay in unbelievable
numbers, arriving from ports all around the world. Now, more than
200 non-native species are making their permanent home in the bay —
including some species that have thoroughly altered the local
So far, we have been lucky in Puget Sound. Experts say we have
about 75 firmly established non-native species, yet none of them
have created the widespread damage caused in San Francisco Bay by
European green crabs and Asian clams or in the Great Lakes by zebra
mussels. The video on this page does a good job of telling the
Great Lakes story, which has been repeated all over the world.
Once people in Washington state realized how disruptive invasive
species can be, the struggle was on to protect Puget Sound from
alien invaders — particularly those found in San Francisco Bay,
which is just a short hop away on the world scale. My series of
stories talks about concerns for Puget Sound and the efforts to
control a possible invasion.
Invasive species range in size from microscopic viruses to
four-foot-long striped bass. In California, the striped bass became
a prized sport fish after it was intentionally introduced in 1879.
But over the past decade concerns have grown for their effects on
the salmon population. The jury is still out on whether high
numbers of stripers should be sustained for anglers or the
population should be fished down rapidly to save salmon and other
species. Check out these stories:
Meanwhile, striped bass have been moving up the West Coast,
possibly because of warmer waters due to climate change. A few
years ago, a 55-pounder was caught in the Columbia River, and I’ve
heard rumors that they have been seen in the Strait of Juan de
On the small side, I report on a tiny crustacean, an invasive
copepod that has almost entirely displaced native copepods in
Samish Bay in northern Puget Sound. Copepods are important prey for
small fish, including herring, which feed the larger salmon. The
invasive copepods are smaller and more difficult for fish to see,
which could have a cascading effect on the entire food web.
A major concern for Puget Sound biologists is the European green
crab, which could move into Puget Sound from San Francisco Bay in
ballast water or with warm ocean currents during an El Niño year,
like the one just past. As I describe in the new series, a major
program involving citizen science volunteers is ongoing in a search
to find the first green crabs before they gain a foothold.
Pacific oysters, another non-native species, were intentionally
brought to the Northwest from Japan in the early 1900s to replace
the native Olympia oyster, which had been decimated by poor water
quality. Pacific oysters soon became a mainstay of the shellfish
industry in the Puget Sound region and are now growing thick in
Similar introductions of Pacific oysters occurred in California
beginning more than 100 years ago, but for some reason the oyster
populations never took hold, according to a report in the
Fish and Game (PDF 1.7 mb). Finally, in the early 2000s, the
invasion began to take off.
“It remains unclear why there should be a successful invasion
now, given the failure of previous attempts to deliberately
introduce the species both locally and throughout California…,” the
“If populations in Southern California waters do continue to
expand and grow, as they have in other areas where they have
invaded, it will undoubtedly bring changes to the way our estuarine
intertidal habitats function as well as in the way we must manage
“Because Pacific oysters rapidly reach large sizes, they could
pose problems related to fouling of maritime equipment,
infrastructure, and vessels,” the report continues. “Pacific
oysters stand out as one of the most transformative invaders of
As Washington state takes steps to keep alien species from
invading Puget Sound from California, California officials may
adopt similar measures to block invaders from coming into that
Please take a look at this package of stories I wrote for Puget
Sound Institute, with editing by Jeff Rice and design by Kris
Tidal waters in Silverdale flow smoothly in and out of Clear
Creek estuary, passing under a new 240-foot-long bridge — a massive
structure that has replaced a pair of six-foot culverts.
I visited the site this afternoon, walking over to the bridge
from Old Mill Park, and I found the changes startling. Flows of
freshwater from Clear Creek joins saltwater that trickles through
tidal channels from Dyes Inlet. Tidal shifts are reshaping the
estuary, flushing out trapped sediment and leaving deposits of
gravel of varying size. When the fall rains come, salmon will be
able to linger in the estuary upstream or downstream of the bridge
before moving up into the watershed.
Traffic across the estuary was shut off for construction a
little more than a year ago. Now county officials are planning to
celebrate the opening of the new bridge on Friday of next week
(July 22). The ceremony, led by Kitsap County Commissioner Ed
Wolfe, will begin at 10 a.m. on the east end of the bridge. A
Marine Corps honor guard will present the colors, and the Central
Kitsap High School marching band will perform.
“We encourage the community to join us in celebrating this
special occasion,” Ed stated in a news release.
“The new bridge not only addresses traffic needs, but provides
additional non-motorized enhancements as well as restoring Clear
Creek estuary with the removal of culverts.”
Parking will be available at the former Albertson’s/Haggen
grocery store parking lot near the intersection of Bucklin Hill and
The $19.4 million construction project is said to be the largest
project of its kind ever undertaken by the county. The bridge
allows the roadway to be widened from two to four lanes with a new
left-turn lane at Levin Road and a center two-way turn lane
elsewhere in the area. The project adds new bike lanes, sidewalks
and pedestrian overlooks.
After the bridge opens, the contractor, Granite Construction,
will continue to finish various aspects of the project. Occasional
traffic delays can be expected, according to county officials.
Chris Butler-Minor, a master’s degree candidate at Portland
State University, is studying the ecological changes resulting from
the project with the help of volunteers. They are collecting water
samples and monitoring sediments, vegetation and invertebrates.
“It’s a yearlong inconvenience but the outcome will be improved
transportation, improved bike and pedestrian access, and the salmon
are going to love it,” Chris was quoted as saying in a
story by Kitsap Sun reporter Ed Friedrich.
At a community meeting in March, many residents of Harper in
South Kitsap expressed profound disappointment that the latest plan
to restore Harper Estuary would remove a low-key boat launch used
by many people in the area. See
Kitsap Sun story, March 31.
The makeshift boat launch, built on fill, provides the only
access to the beach in that area, community members noted. Many
expressed their belief that county and state officials had failed
in their commitment to maintain beach access.
After the meeting, five representatives of the community met
onsite with officials involved in the project. Several ideas were
discussed, and it appears that a new access to the estuary is
gaining approval, though it won’t allow vehicles with trailers to
reach the water. The new access would be an earthen ramp on the
opposite side of Olympiad Drive.
“Retaining the boat landing in its current location will:
“Block the ability to replace the undersized culvert with a
large bridge in order to restore estuary function and tidal
“Reduce sediment contaminant removal associated with the
“Retain compacted gravel substrate that does not support
aquatic plants or benthic organisms at the existing boat launch,
“Impede restoration of filled estuarine habitat and functional
The proposal now under consideration is to grade the slope
alongside Olympiad Drive at a gentle 5:1 angle. Cars and trucks
could pull off the side of the road long enough to unload their
boats, which would be carried down the slope. For people who just
want to walk down to the water, the ramp would provide the needed
access and perhaps the beginning of a proposed trail system around
A plan to build stairs down to the water from Southworth Drive
raised objections during the March meeting, because it would be
difficult and unsafe to carry boats across the busy roadway and
down concrete steps, which could become slippery. If the stairs are
built, which remains undecided, they could be designed to contain
gravel, making them less slippery.
Jim Heytvelt, a community leader in Harper, said the new access
to the beach would meet the needs of most, but not all, people in
the community. Most people in support of the restoration never
wanted a major boat launch like the one at Manchester, he said.
People are beginning to come around to the reality of the
situation, given conditions needed to restore the estuary, he
During surveys of the property, officials discovered another
problem that could have thrown a monkey wrench into the boat launch
at its current location. The county learned that it does not own
the property where the boat launch was built, as had been widely
assumed. The property is owned by the state Department of Natural
Resources — and nobody has ever been given approval to use the
Even if the restoration could be done without removing the
launch site, nobody knows if the DNR would grant a lease for the
use to continue. Someone might need to assume liability at the
site. The proposed ramp to the estuary seems to eliminate that
problem, as the property is almost entirely owned by the
Delays in preparing the plans, getting permits and putting the
project out to bid has caused the schedule to slip from early
summer into late summer and fall, said Doris Small of the
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. That assumes the
project can be advertised for bids by the end of this month —
something that is still not certain.
Any further delays could put the funding in jeopardy and might
require new approvals from the Washington Department of Ecology and
possibly the Legislature. The restoration money comes from a fund
set up to mitigate for damages from the ASARCO smelter in Tacoma,
which emitted toxic pollution for decades, some of which reached
The first phase of the project involves excavation to remove
most of the fill dumped into the estuary, allowing the shorelines
to return to a natural condition. To complete the restoration,
additional funding is being sought to build a bridge, which will
replace the culvert under Olympiad Drive. If funding is approved,
the bridge could be built as early as next summer.
Another community meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30
p.m. at Colby United Methodist Church, 2881 Harvey St. SE.
Officials will provide an update on the restoration efforts. County
Commission Charlotte Garrido said she would like to continue
discussions about what the community would like to see in the
future, hoping to build a stronger relationship between the county
and the community.
“Still no babies,” commented Peg Tillery, as we arrived at the
Lofall dock in North Kitsap in search of sea stars clinging to
pilings under the dock.
“They say there’s a comeback of the little ones,” noted Barb
Erickson, “but I’m not seeing any of them.”
Peg and Barb are two of three retired volunteers who first
brought me to this site two years ago to explain their ongoing
investigation into the mysterious “sea star wasting disease.” Since
our first trip, researchers have identified the virus that attacks
sea stars, causes their arms to fall off and turns their bodies to
a gooey mush.
I first witnessed the devastation in June of 2014, when starfish
were dying by the millions up and down the West Coast (Water
Ways, June 17, 2014). Lofall, a community on Hood Canal, was
just one location where the stars seemed to be barely clinging to
life. Now, just a fraction of the population still survives in many
Bruce Menge of Oregon State University recently reported an
upsurge in the number of baby starfish on the Oregon Coast,
something not seen since the beginning of the epidemic.
“When we looked at the settlement of the larval sea stars on
rocks in 2014 during the epidemic, it was the same or maybe even a
bit lower than previous years,” said Menge in a
news release from OSU. “But a few months later, the number of
juveniles was off the charts — higher than we’d ever seen — as much
as 300 times normal.”
As Peg and Barb pointed out, the recovery at Lofall has been hit
or miss during more than two years of monitoring the site. I became
hopeful on my return trip to the dock in January of 2015, when I
noticed a mix of healthy adult and juvenile sea stars (Water
Ways, Jan. 20,2015).
This week, the young ones were nowhere in sight. Clusters of
healthy adult ochre stars were piled on top of each other at the
bottom of the piers, waiting for the tide to come back in. I was
not sure what to make of it.
“it could be worse,” Barb said. “I think it is neutral news.”
Peg agreed, saying, “It could be totally worse.”
Summer has been the period of reckoning in past years, and we
should soon know if we are in for another round of disease, which
could kill off more of the surviving sea stars, or if the disease
is finally on the wane.
Linda Martin, who normally compiles the data, was not along on
this week’s trip to Lofall, but other volunteers filled in for
“It is an interesting ride,” Barb told me, referring to her
experience as a so-called citizen scientist. “It connects you to
the larger picture, and you realize that everything is
It is nice for people in the community to know that this
volunteer work is taking place, Barb said, and that someone is
watching for changes in the environment.
“People will come up and ask me if there is anything new, people
who couldn’t have cared less before,” she said.
For those interested in this kind of volunteer work, a good
place to start is Kitsap Beach Naturalists. One can contact Renee
Johnson, program coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, the cause of sea star wasting disease remains
somewhat of a mystery even after its connection to the densovirus,
which is associated with dead sea stars but also has been found in
some that are free of disease.
A laboratory study
led by Morgan Eisenlord of Cornell University found that the
disease progressed faster when adult sea stars were exposed to
higher temperatures and that adult mortality was 18 percent higher
when water temperatures reached 66 degrees F. Temperature was
documented as a likely factor in the spread of disease through the
San Juan Islands.
But temperatures are not the sole controlling factor, because
the spread of the disease has been out of sync with temperature
change in numerous locations.
“The sea temperatures were warmer when the outbreak first
began,” Menge said, “but Oregon wasn’t affected as early as other
parts of the West Coast, and the outbreak reached its peak here
when the sea temperature plummeted and was actually cooler than
Could there be another trigger that increases the virulence of
“Ocean acidification is one possibility, and we’re looking at
that now,” Menge said. “Ultimately, the cause seems likely to be
Andy Nelson, who took over as Kitsap County’s public works
director two years ago, quickly proved his worth to the local
environment when he proposed federal funding for three major
One project begins with a proposed $350,000 study of South
Kitsap’s Burley Creek watershed — an important stream that probably
has never received the attention it deserves. The other projects
are in Silverdale and Hansville.
I stumbled on Kitsap County’s proposal for Burley Creek buried
within a U.S. Senate bill to authorize water-related projects
across the country — the same bill that would authorize the
$20-million Skokomish River ecosystem restoration in Mason County.
Water Ways, April 28.)
How did a relatively small Kitsap project find its way into a
massive public works bill? You could say it was because Andy was
aware of a congressional effort to seek out local partnerships with
the Army Corps of Engineers. That effort, which began in 2014, came
about in part as response to the elimination of old-fashioned
earmarks, by which members of Congress could promote their favorite
Andy came to Kitsap County after retiring from the Army Corps of
Engineers, where he held the rank of colonel and was deputy
commander for the South Pacific Division. That’s the Corps’
regional office for California and the other Southwest states. (See
County news release.)
“Kitsap County is a great place, and we chose to come here
because of Puget Sound and the nearby mountains,” Andy told me.
“With the amount of saltwater shorelines, I anticipated there would
be ongoing Army Corps work taking place in Kitsap County.”
In fact, there were no projects in Kitsap County proposed in
partnership with the Army Corps. The Corps had previously done
studies on Harper Estuary in South Kitsap and on Carpenter Creek in
North Kitsap, but funding was never available for the actual
Andy put his head together with staffers in Kitsap County Public
Works (his department) and the Department of Community Development.
They came up with three projects to be submitted to the Corps for
consideration. In the end — and to Andy’s great surprise — these
three Kitsap projects were the only ones submitted from Washington
state during the first year of the solicitation.
The Burley Creek project is one that Tim Beachy, an engineer for
Kitsap County Public Works, had been considering in a more limited
“We were looking at the replacement of a barrier culvert on
Bethel-Burley Road,” Tim told me. “It looked like a bridge upstream
on Fenton Road could be impacted by the culvert replacement, and
there was a private bridge upstream of that.”
A barrier culvert is one identified as blocking or impeding the
passage of salmon. Replacing a culvert can alter the grade of the
stream channel, affecting bridges and culverts upstream and/or
downstream and potentially leading to unanticipated consequences
for salmon migration.
It turns out that Burley Creek contains spawning beds used by
Puget Sound chinook and Puget Sound steelhead, both listed as
threatened under the Endangered Species Act. It also contains
important spawning and rearing habitat for other salmon
At Andy’s direction, a study was proposed to look at salmon
passage at four bridges in close proximity on Burley Creek, to
consider the effects of flooding and storm damage on the roads and
bridges, and to propose further actions that might reduce pollution
affecting shellfish downstream in Burley Lagoon.
County officials met with the Corps to discuss the idea. The
Corps accepted it as a worthwhile project and proposed it for
funding. Congress will have the final word on the study, which
would be done by the Corps. If the project moves to construction,
local and state funding — probably a 35 percent match — would be
The Burley Creek study requires congressional authorization
because it is somewhat unique and does not fit under the
“continuing authority” that allows the Corps to investigate issues
such as shoreline restoration, shoreline stabilization, ecosystem
restoration or navigation, Andy told me. The Corps does not have
authority to address water-quality projects per se.
The other two projects are still being evaluated, but they will
not need congressional approval since they fall under existing
authority of the Corps.
One would be a close look at Silverdale’s waterfront at the head
of Dyes Inlet, including Clear Creek and the pocket estuary near
Hop Jack’s and Silverdale Beach Hotel. The study would look at ways
to restore ecological processes and biological diversity, including
shorelines used by forage fish, salmon, resident and migratory
waterfowl, and diverse species found in both freshwater and tidal
marshes. The project would address stormwater alternatives and
consider ways to improve passive recreation.
The last project — which was actually the first in a letter to
the Corps — would involve the restoration of freshwater and
saltwater marsh habitats in and around Point No Point County Park.
The study would look at the longterm effects of sea-level rise,
including flood control and potential damage to houses, roads, park
facilities and the historic Point No Point Lighthouse. The project
could create a more natural setting and enhance intertidal
“Nothing prevents two or even all three of these projects from
competing for funds and getting funded,” Andy said. “We may
determine that the work is not for the Army Corps of Engineers, but
we could still use the science and engineering that comes out of
these studies. To get a Kitsap County creek in the (Water Resources
Development Act) is a big deal.”
It has always been a question to ponder: Will the most
significant changes to the Elwha River ecosystem occur upstream of
where two dams have been removed or downstream where the river
enters the Strait of Juan de Fuca?
Soon after each dam was torn down in succession — the lower one
first — salmon began migrating upstream, while more than 30 million
cubic yards of sediment began moving downstream.
It could take a number of years to rebuild the extensive runs of
salmon, including the prized chinook for which the Elwha was famous
among salmon fishermen across the country. Will we ever see the
legendary 100-pound chinook return to the Elwha, assuming they ever
existed? That was a question I explored in a story for the
Kitsap Sun in September 2010.
On the other hand, massive amounts of sediment have already
spilled out of the Elwha River, building an extensive delta of sand
and gravel, including about 80 acres of new habitat and two miles
of sandy beach.
Reporter Tristan Baurick focused on the dramatic shoreline
changes already taking place at the mouth of the Elwha in a
well-written story published in
Sunday’s Kitsap Sun.
The Coastal Watershed Institute, which is monitoring the
shoreline near the mouth of the Elwha has documented increases in
critical forage fish populations, including surf smelt, sand lance,
eulachon (candlefish) and longfin smelt. See CWI
Blog. These fish feed a host of larger fish, birds and marine
Tristan describes the changes offshore, where an area starved of
sediment is turning into prime habitat for starry flounder,
Dungeness crab and many other animals. Rocky outcroppings that once
provided attachment for bull kelp is giving way to fine sand, which
allows for colonization by eelgrass and a host of connected
species. I described some of the early changes in the flora in a
Kitsap Sun story in March of 2013.
For people to view the restoration first-hand, I described a day
trip to the Elwha in a
Kitsap Sun story in April of 2013. Along the way, you can check
out the history, enjoy the vantage points and learn about the
changes taking place. Tristan offers a suggestion worth heeding to
ensure ongoing beach access.
“Access to the beach is granted by the dike’s owners. They could
take that away if the area’s overwhelmed with trash, noise and
other nuisances, so keep that in mind when you visit.”
If you’d like to see a video record of dam removal and ecosystem
recovery, you may wish to view the film “Return of the River” to be
shown at Bremerton’s Admiral Theatre on Friday, March 13. The film
will be followed by a panel discussion involving the film’s
producers, John Gussman and Jessica Plumb. For details, check the