Tag Archives: Chico Creek

Three videos take us upstream, where it all begins

John F. Williams of Suquamish, known for his brilliant underwater videos, has worked his way upstream from Puget Sound and into the freshwater streams of the Kitsap Peninsula.

His latest video project began somewhat haphazardly, John told me. But the end result is nothing less than an entertaining and educational series that anyone can enjoy. It helps that each video is just a little over four minutes. In such a short time, John was able to tell a story while packing in a lot of information.

“It all started,” John said, “when Ron (Hirschi) invited me to come film him taking some preschool kids down to the South Fork of Dogfish Creek. He thought that would be fun.”

Ron Hirschi, who grew up around Port Gamble, worked as a biologist for years before becoming a successful children’s author. He tells stories of nature in simple and endearing ways. In the first video on this page, you’ll see Ron reading from one of his books.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Ron and I have known each other for more than 30 years. He was an early mentor for me as I was learning about streams and shorelines in Western Washington, and I still rely on him for advice from time to time. He was an important voice in the book “Hood Canal: Splendor At Risk.”

Anyway, it was nice to see the two storytellers — John and Ron — link up on a project together.

“At the time, we had no idea where this was going,” John said.

A member of the Kitsap Environmental Education Program, John learned that some money was available for education projects through the “Puget Sound Starts Here” campaign.

“It occurred to me that what I was doing with the streams fit into what they wanted,” he said, “so I pitched the idea of doing several movies about streams and people’s interactions with them. I wanted people to understand that these streams, which are hidden behind the trees, are part of their lives.”

John completed the video with Ron Hirschi, showing a visit to a forgotten stream, Poulsbo Creek, as well as the well-known Dogfish Creek, both in North Kitsap. John also obtained leads for stories about Olalla Creek in South Kitsap and Chico Creek in Central Kitsap.

His contact in South Kitsap was teacher Lisa Wickens at Ollalla Elementary School. It so happens that I had worked with Lisa on a story about elementary school children building a rain garden to prevent dirty water from getting into Olalla Creek. Check out “Olalla students learn science with a rain garden,” Kitsap Sun, Dec. 13, 2013 (subscription).

John was blown away by the intellectual and scientific skills of this younger generation.

“I was sitting in Lisa’s classroom one day, and she was giving her second-graders an assignment to write a persuasion piece,” John noted. “She wanted them to persuade someone to take care of the Earth. I said I would love to come and film the kids reading their papers… It was so amazing.”

You’ll get a feeling for their abilities in the second video.

For the third video, John connected with Maureen McNulty, a teacher at Klahowya Secondary School who was organizing the students to build a rain garden. It turned out that older students were teamed up with younger ones on the project, so that everyone learned something.

John also traced the path of a stream from the school wetlands into the adjoining forest and encountered Frank Sticklin, the chief guru for Newberry Hill Heritage Park. Frank educated John about beaver dams.

“I had never seen beaver ponds, and he showed me these incredible things,” John said.

In reality, John probably had seen beaver ponds and beaver dams without knowing that beavers were responsible. After Frank’s tour, he went for a walk south of Port Gamble and encountered something that he immediately recognized as a beaver dam. Once you’ve seen one, you know what to look for.

“I think of this as a metaphor of what I do with my movies,” John told me. “I help people see things that they haven’t seen before and to look at the world in a new way.”

John’s videos have been recorded onto DVDs and distributed to nearly 200 schools and environmental organizations throughout the area.

He’s now working on some projects involving the Puget Sound shoreline. I’ll let you when they are done. Meanwhile, you may wish to check out his websites, Still Hope Productions and Sea-Media.org.

New bridge could improve salmon viewing

It was great to see more than 100 people turn out Satuday to remove weeds at Salmon Viewing Park on Chico Way. Check out my story in Sunday’s Kitsap Sun.

Dan Mullen and his daughter Hailey, 7, remove brush last Saturday along Chico Creek. Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall
Dan Mullen and his daughter Hailey, 7, remove brush last Saturday along Chico Creek in Salmon Viewing Park.
Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall

Some people came out to do a little volunteer work and get some exercise. Others had a special connection to this undeveloped park property on Chico Creek. And others wanted to get in on the ground floor of an effort to transform this overgrown property into a splendid park.

It is too early to say how this park will look a few years from now, but most everyone wants to keep it natural. Trails, interpretive signs, a couple viewing platforms and some picnic tables are being considered. I discussed the plans briefly in a story on Jan. 27.

Did I mention that this park is one of the best places to view salmon on the Kitsap Peninsula? I list it prominently on my salmon-viewing map and encourage people to visit this spot throughout the salmon-spawning season.

The old culvert under Golf Club Road.
The old culvert under Golf Club Road.

One thing being discussed at Saturday’s outing was the likelihood that a corner of this park would be needed for a new bridge to replace a culvert under Golf Club Road. The culvert, which impedes the migration of adult salmon, serves the only road that goes up to Kitsap Golf and Country Club. The county will save money by building the new bridge before taking out the old culvert.

Planners tried hard to avoid construction of a bridge altogether. One idea was to build a road that connects with Chico Way on the south side of the Chico Way bridge. Such a road would eliminate the need for Golf Club Road and allow the culvert to be removed. But planners could not find a route for a new road that would work for local residents and not do extensive damage to wetlands in the creek’s floodplain.

The new bridge will cut off a corner of Salmon Viewing Park.
The new bridge will cut off a corner of Salmon Viewing Park.

Losing a portion of the park to build a new bridge sounded like a bad thing until I talked to Steve Heacock of the Kitsap County Department of Community Development. Steve told me that planners are working on a design that would allow a trail to be built from Salmon Viewing Park under the new bridge, providing access to a salmon viewing area on the north side.

Furthermore, the bridge itself could include a viewing platform to watch salmon from above.

To span the creek, designers have proposed an arch design using precast concrete pieces that span the creek with extra room for the stream to alter its channel and overflow into its floodplain, Steve told me. The arch design, called BEBO by the company that holds the trademark, is expected to keep the cost of the new bridge within reason. County officials are seeking grants to complete the design of the bridge and move on to construction.

The artist rendering below is just one idea provided by the engineers who did the preliminary design. The plan could be altered for a more natural look.

One possibility for the new bridge over Chico Creek on Golf Club Road.
One possibility for the new bridge over Chico Creek on Golf Club Road.

Streamflows are creating good conditions for salmon

It appears that our summer and fall weather around Puget Sound has been very good for chum salmon.

A chum salmon navigates its way upstream in Chico Creek past new weirs installed at Kitsap Golf and Country Club.
Kitsap Sun photo by Meegan Reid

I’m getting reports that good numbers of chum are swimming up into sections of streams where they have not been seen for years. This means that conditions are ripe for watching salmon. Check out our salmon-watching map of the Kitsap Peninsula, and read my latest reports in the Kitsap Sun and Watching Our Water Ways. Also, Kitsap Visitor and Convention Bureau has created a special website for visitors who want to see salmon.

Jon Oleyar, who counts salmon in the East Kitsap streams for the Suquamish Tribe, offered the example of Johnson Creek, which flows into Poulsbo’s Liberty Bay.

“These chum were thick from the mouth all the way up,” Jon told me after checking out the stream this week. “There was decent flow, and I was amazed to see them all the way up.”

Reports of unusual numbers of salmon have been coming in from other streams as well, including Strawberry Creek, a small, heavily impacted stream that flows through Silverdale.

Most of these salmon appear to be coming in much earlier than normal, Oleyar said.
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Salmon-watching should be our Northwest sport

Take me out to the salmon stream,
Take me away from the crowd.
Buy me nothing, not even a snack;
I don’t care if I never get back.

Forgive me for twisting around baseball’s sacred song, but it just popped into my head as I prepared to write about salmon. Specifically, I was thinking about how much I enjoy taking my kids — and now my grandkids — out to watch salmon spawning in our local streams.

Of course, fishing with a fly or even bait brings a different level of excitement. But there’s something special about standing quietly at the edge of a stream to avoid spooking the migrating salmon. If you are able to get the kids to calm down, you might even see a female chum salmon scooping out a depression in the gravel while one or more males circle around and try to get close.

Year after year, I write a story about the annual chum migration, encouraging people to go out to their local streams to watch the magnificent fish unique to our part of the world. This year’s story was published in Sunday’s Kitsap Sun.

In Kitsap County, Chico Creek is always a pretty good bet to see fish. This year, Kitsap County officials opened access to a new fish-viewing park just south of Golf Club Road. A couple of new trails provide both a high- and low-viewpoint to the creek.

If you wait until late in the year, you may still see chum salmon in Gorst Creek at Otto Jarstad Park just outside of Belfair. I like to remind people that if visitors come into town at Christmas, it’s a good time to expose them to the wild side of Washington state.

The interactive salmon map on the Kitsap Sun’s website also includes a few streams in Mason County, but I’d like to compile a list of good salmon-viewing streams throughout Puget Sound.

For one, there’s Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail south of Shelton, which will open to the public on Saturday, Nov. 6. The trail will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends in November, as well as Veterans Day and the day after Thanksgiving. Trained docents will be on hand to answer questions. Check out the website by the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group.

In Thurston County, there’s McLane Creek Nature Trail.

For King County streams, check out locations listed on the county’s Spawning Salmon Viewing website.

Likewise for Pierce County salmon viewing (PDF 1.0 mb).

If you know of other good salmon-viewing streams in the region or would like to talk about your favorite spot, feel free to add comments in the section below.

Estuary grants will aid Chico Creek and more

I’ve written lots of stories about replacing culverts to improve salmon passage, but a $600,000 grant to the Suquamish Tribe will be used to remove a culvert and fully open up the estuary at the mouth of Chico Creek.

This culvert on Chico Creek is scheduled for removal. Here, Suquamish Fisheries Manager Jay Zischke and the tribe's environmental biologist Tom Ostrom survey the scene.
Photo courtesy of Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

The Chico Creek grant was among some $30 million in grants announced Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency as part of the Puget Sound Estuary Program. I wrote about the grants and quoted involved officials in a story published in yesterday’s Kitsap Sun. I’ll cover the other Puget Sound projects here after talking about the one on Chico Creek.

Most roads that follow a shoreline in the Puget Sound region go somewhere important, but Kittyhawk Drive is a dead-end. After crossing Chico Creek, the road serves only three homes, if I recall correctly.

After the stream flows through a culvert under Highway 3, it passes beneath Kittyhawk Drive with enough force to blow out some of the large rocks planted there to help salmon make it upstream. Removing the culvert will improve the estuary and help with the fish-passage problem at that location, but the project needs to address a change in elevation to get up to the freeway culvert.

The freeway culvert is another obstacle of concern. Local officials are working with the Washington Department of Transportation to find a way to replace that freeway culvert with a bridge. Needless to say, the cost will be enormous.

Another Chico Creek culvert destined for replacement is the one under Golf Club Road, just upstream from Kitsap Golf and Country Club. That culvert replacement is part of an extensive restoration of the stream channel where if flows through the golf course.

Yes, all this sounds like a lot of expense for one salmon stream, but biologists will tell you that Chico Creek supports the largest chum salmon run on the Kitsap Peninsula and provides a decent run of coho and potentially other species. Once the migrating adult salmon make it through the culverts near the mouth of the stream, they have good spawning habitat upstream in the Chico Creek watershed. Tributaries include Kitsap Creek, which flows out of Kitsap Lake; Wildcat Creek, which flows out of Wildcat Lake; and Dickerson Creek, which originates within a vast undeveloped forestland.

Exactly when we’ll see the culvert under Kittyhawk Drive removed remains uncertain. First, a new driveway must be built for residents on the far side of the culvert. I’m told there is still some design work to be done before contracts can go out to bid, and construction must be scheduled around the salmon migrations.

Other projects approved for funding:
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Puget Sound projects fare well in stimulus package

Using federal economic stimulus money, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has allocated $4.5 million to the removal of derelict fishing gear in Puget Sound.

This project and several other stream and estuary restoration projects in Puget Sound are part of an allocation of $167 million nationwide for marine and coastal habitats. See NOAA’s news release for a description of all 50 projects approved under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Kitsap County did not receive money for a new bridge at the Carpenter Creek estuary nor for the next phase of the Chico Creek restoration at Kitsap Golf and Country Club. These were the submissions that came out of this county. Officials held high hopes for approval, since the projects were endorsed by the Puget Sound Partnership and the Governor’s Office — but so were a lot of other projects.

As it turns out, Washington state will be provided 10 percent of the total nationwide funding, which leaves little room for complaint.

“The stimulus funds announced today by NOAA are a great win for Washington’s salmon recovery and Puget Sound restoration efforts,” Gov. Chris Gregoire stated in a news release.

Disappointed Kitsap County officials are regrouping to find another way and other funding to move the two restoration projects forward. See my story slated for tomorrow’s Kitsap Sun.

Carpenter Creek has been on one or more priority lists for years, but the project never seems to get done. In any given year, either the federal dollars aren’t available or the state match can’t be found, or both. I can only remind supporters that a new culvert for Barker Creek in Central Kitsap went through some of the same gyrations before getting built a year ago.

Puget Sound projects that did get funding appear to be quite deserving, according to observers who know the details. Those projects are:

  • Elwha River Floodplain Restoration, Port Angeles, $2 million. In conjunction with the Elwha Dam removal, this project will restore 82 acres of the floodplain of the lower Elwha River through the removal of dikes and culverts, revegetation and invasive species control.
  • Removal of Derelict Fishing Gear in Puget Sound, $4.5 million. This program will remove more than 200 metric tons of marine debris, including more than 3,000 nets. It includes the restoration of 600 acres of habitat.
  • Smuggler’s Slough, Nooksack River Restoration, Bellingham, $1.7 million. The project will raise a roadway, reconnect tidal connections and restore eelgrass habitat over 493 acres of Smuggler’s Slough in Lummi Bay. Seven miles of slough habitat also will be opened.
  • Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration, Marysville, $2 million. This effort will restore 350 acres of wetland and 16 stream miles to allow the passage of several species of salmon on the lower Snohomish River and its surrounding tidal floodplain. Included are the removal of levees, new channel excavation and planting of vegetation.
  • Fisher Slough Marsh Restoration, Burlington, $5.2 million. The project will restore 60 acres of the Skagit River floodplain by replacing antiquated agricultural floodgates and restoring 15 miles of high-quality habitat for chum, coho, chinook and other species.
  • Hansen Creek Floodplain Restoration, Milltown, $988,000. Included in this project are an excavation to reconnect 140 acres of forested floodplain habitat with the addition of woody debris for chum, coho, chinook and other species.

Salmon are shaking their tails, while we tell their tales

It’s a good day to talk about chum salmon, what with recent rains causing these amazing fish to sniff out our local streams. We packed a lot of local salmon news into today’s Kitsap Sun:

One of 12 sections for a new culvert for Barker Creek under Tracyton Boulevard. (Click to enlarge. One reader noticed “ancestors’ faces” next to the ladder.)// Kitsap Sun photo
  • An update on the stream restoration of Chico Creek, the most productive chum stream on the Kitsap Peninsula. This is the first of three phases at Kitsap Golf and Country Club. Sue Donahue, who is managing the project for Kitsap County, provided a description for the video of salmon working their way upstream.
  • An update of the culvert work where Barker Creek passes under Tracyton Boulevard. The new 34-wide culvert will allow debris to pass downstream during floods and will improve access for salmon coming into the stream. A video shows sections of the culvert being moved into place. (By the way, one reader noticed “ancestors’ faces” in the photo at right.)
  • With salmon beginning to move, it was time to bring out the interactive salmon map, which intern Angela Hiatt and I put together last year to show the best salmon-viewing streams in the Kitsap and North Mason areas. By clicking on the map. you’ll see how to get to the streams, and you can watch a video with descriptions of each one.
  • In terms of news, I learned that somebody had pulled out a board on the dam at Kitsap Lake, presumably to lower the lake level. That action caused a surge of water that stimulated several hundred fish to swim upstream toward Kitsap Lake. When the flow declined, the fish were stranded and 200 to 300 died before spawning, according to Jon Oleyar, a biologist with the Suquamish Tribe.
  • And here’s something for family fun: A self-guided salmon tour will be offered on Nov. 22, when salmon experts will provide information and answer questions at Fish Park in Poulsbo, Chico Creek near Chico and Jarstad Park near Gorst. Participants should plan to be at one or more of the locations at these times: 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m.

Letter questions priorities of salmon compared to bridge

The “Letter to the Editor” is titled “Are Salmon Higher Priority Than People?”

Since it was published online at the beginning of October, this letter has generated more than 70 comments. It has spurred a debate about the priorities of salmon and people by asking the question of why the Chico Creek restoration seems to have moved ahead of the washed-out Chico Creek Bridge.

As it is with most comments, some people carry on a reasonable conversation while others are, well, hard to explain. I’ve tried to pick out some of the more interesting statements for your enjoyment.

First the letter:

OK, Let me get this straight: Kitsap County is spending funds to “improve” and “enhance” Chico Creek for salmon habitat, then a culvert on Golf Club Road — but according to the story Chico Way’s bridge isn’t even bid out yet, has fallen behind and may not be completed till the end of next year.

Ummm, why are salmon getting priority over taxpayers? Wouldn’t it have made good sense to fix the Chico Way bridge first, THEN fix the salmon stream?

I’m scratching me head here. Can someone please explain to me why salmon get better service before the taxpayers who live along Chico Way do?

Ronald Raley

Now a few of the comments:

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Rock structure will help salmon through a tough spot

Anybody who has seen migrating salmon jumping up against a concrete wall and falling back down again probably shares the frustration with the salmon.

Chico Bay work / Kitsap Sun photo

Except at high tide, chum salmon in Chico Creek have been finding it tough to get through a culvert under Kittyhawk Drive at the edge of Chico Bay. For those who don’t recall, Chico Creek is the most productive salmon stream on the Kitsap Peninsula.

This year, Kitsap County Public Works — at the request of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife — built a series of rock structures to raise the pool downstream of the culvert. For more detail, check out the story in today’s Kitsap Sun. You may also view a video of the construction work.

The structure should be finished in a day or two, if it wasn’t completed today. I hope to see the fish swimming easily into the culvert, though they tend to be delayed by another culvert under the Highway 3 freeway.

It’s a good place to watch migrating chum. But if you go, please be careful where you park — and keep a close watch on the kids for their safety.

Good news for three salmon-restoration projects

Three months ago, I reported how funding problems were threatening three important salmon-restoration projects in Kitsap County. They involved Barker Creek and Chico Creek, both in Central Kitsap, and Carpenter Creek in North Kitsap. See May 27 Kitsap Sun.

Now, I am able to report good news on all three fronts.

Final pieces of the funding puzzle for the Barker Creek project were fitted into place recently, and replacement of the culvert under Tracyton Boulevard will begin next week. Timing could be better, as you can read in a story in today’s Kitsap Sun, but officials say they will do their best to protect nearby waters during construction. If the $1 million project does not get started now, funding will be lost, officials say.

A stream-restoration project on Chico Creek, where it flows through Kitsap Golf and Country Club, got under way recently. See last week’s story. The project involves carving a new meandering channel in some places and widening the existing channel in other places.

The original funding was not enough to redo the entire channel through the golf course, so the project was broken into two parts to use the existing funding. The remaining channel work is expected in 2010.

An ongoing concern is the culvert under Golf Club Road. It is now considered a third phase of the project, and a feasibility study will determine whether the culvert should be removed or whether a cheaper option will work.

Finally, funding for the Carpenter Creek bridge over the saltwater estuary near Kingston remains a bit on edge, as I described in the May 27 piece. State funding is finally in place, but the matching federal funding has become a bit shaky.

The good news is that all three versions of the federal budget — the president’s, the House’s and the Senate’s — list the Carpenter Creek project by name, which means that it is less likely to get lost in the scramble to allocate money to the Army Corps of Engineers.

“It looks very promising,” Naomi Maasberg of Cutthroats of Carpenter Creek told me this morning. “Things can still happen,” she noted. But, as things look now, construction can be expected next summer.