Tag Archives: Carpenter Creek

New bridges provide improved habitat in two Kitsap County creeks

Contractors are putting the final touches on two new bridges in Kitsap County, both of which are expected to improve the local environment.

A new bridge over the Carpenter Creek Estuary near Kingston helps to restore the upper salt marsh.
Photo; Stillwaters Environmental Center

One is a 150-foot bridge that crosses the Carpenter Creek Estuary on West Kingston Road near Kingston. The other is a 50-foot bridge that crosses Big Anderson Creek on Seabeck-Holly Road near Holly.

Among local residents, the Carpenter Creek bridge may best be known as the bridge that blocked traffic and forced a detour near Kingston for more than a year — much longer than originally planned. (Recall reporter Nathan Pilling’s story in the Kitsap Sun.) While contract issues remain in dispute, the environmental benefits are clear, according to Joleen Palmer of the nearby Stillwaters Environmental Center.

The old roadway across the estuary acted like a dam to impede flows upstream and downstream.
Photo: Stillwaters Environmental Center

Replacement of a 5-foot culvert with the bridge over the estuary has obvious benefits for salmon that must fight the current to go upstream to spawn, Joleen told me, but people may not appreciate the importance of the much-expanded salt marsh.

When the roadbed was installed nearly a century ago, it formed a dam, causing water in the stream to back up, which encouraged freshwater vegetation. The saltwater influence was greatly reduced, and critical nutrients coming downstream were deposited before they reached Puget Sound.

The new bridge will allow saltwater to come and go with the tides and for nutrients to flow out more freely. Juvenile salmon coming downstream can pause to grow and acclimate to the saltier conditions they will face.

Salt marshes, which were filled in all too often years ago, are considered highly productive, because dead organic material — detritus — from the stream and estuary feeds bacteria, insects, worms and a multitude of other tiny creatures at the base of the food web.

“Salt marshes are really detritus-based ecosystems,” Joleen said. “You have many invertebrates that eat the detritus and other decomposers. The food sources reach out into the estuary and nearshore habitat to fuel the marine food web. It is not insignificant that the area is now opened up.”

Side channels in the marsh will provide refuge for young fish to grow before they head out to sea. To varying extents, the stream, marsh and estuary are expected to support coho, chinook and chum salmon along with steelhead and cutthroat trout.

Volunteers and students have been monitoring conditions in the watershed to measure the changes taking place. The latest addition to the monitoring effort is an ongoing search for the invasive European green crab. The volunteer program, called the Crab Team, is managed by Washington Sea Grant.

“The estuary is still some distance from known populations of invasive European green crab,” writes Cindi Nevins, a North Kitsap resident who joined the team, “but if the green crabs ever do arrive at Carpenter Creek, they will find exactly the kind of space they love: salt marsh channels, marsh vegetation and quiet lagoon-like waters. Why do we think they’ll love it? Because hairy shore crabs (Hemigrapsus oregonensis) do!”

Throughout Puget Sound, Crab Team members catch and identify hundreds of thousands of crabs in marsh habitat suitable for both the natives and the invaders. The volunteers hope never to catch a green crab, but some green crabs have been found in a few places in Northern Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. By intensifying the trapping effort, the Crab Team hopes to eradicate the invaders, or at least keep them under control.

Cindi’s report, published in the Crab Team’s newsletter, goes on to describe the challenge of catching crabs in the Carpenter Creek marsh, which often drains completely at low tide. Because the traps must be kept submerged to be effective, the volunteers are often forced to set the traps in the evening as the tide comes in and retrieve them early the next morning before the tide goes out.

To celebrate completion of the new bridge, everyone is invited to celebrate “Estuary Restoration Day” on Saturday, June 9, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Stillwaters Environmental Center, 26059 Barber Cut Off Road, Kingston.

The program will include guided tours to the marsh, live music, food and a native plant sale. Those involved with various aspects of the project will receive special recognition.

For information and videos about the marsh, visit the Stillwaters website.

The new bridge over Big Anderson Creek near Holly is nearly twice as long as the old one.
Photo: Christopher Dunagan

The bridge over Big Anderson Creek near Holly is more of a highway-safety project than an ecosystem-restoration effort. The wooden bridge, 67 years old, was the last bridge in Kitsap County to be rated structurally deficient because of its overall poor condition. Check out the story in the Kitsap Sun by reporter Ed Friedrich.

Still, the new concrete bridge, which spans 50 feet of stream, is nearly twice as long as the old bridge. That will allow the stream to meander more naturally and at a rate that sandbars can form nearby. At high flows, the stream won’t be squeezed as much through the space under the bridge.

The old wooden bridge over Big Anderson Creek was rated structurally deficient by inspectors.
Photo: Kitsap County Public Works

By the way, the official name of the stream is “Anderson Creek,” allowing confusion with two other streams named “Anderson” in Kitsap County alone. I prefer to call it “Big Anderson,” in conformance to tradition by area residents and local institutions. For a further explanation of the issue, read Water Ways, June 22, 2017.

Carpenter Creek culvert is gone, as bridge work pushes to meet schedule

UPDATE, Thursday Oct. 26

The bridge construction will continue beyond the end of the year, when it was originally scheduled for completion. The new completion date is listed as March 2018.

“The delay is due to numerous issues and challenges, including encountering old buried wooden pilings and associated contaminated material, a revised sanitary sewer design, and labor and materials shortages, which disrupted the construction schedule,” according to a news release from Kitsap County. “The onset of the winter weather months will also add to the delay as final work on the project, such as paving, depends on fair weather.”

An old five-foot culvert where Carpenter Creek passes under West Kingston Road is now down to its last bit of concrete plus a wedge dirt, with final removal awaiting completion of a new 150-foot-long bridge.

Only one section of the old culvert remains on Carpenter Creek after other pieces were pulled out two weeks ago. // Photo: Sillwaters Environmental Center

Massive amounts of earthen fill and have been removed since the project started about six months ago. All that remains is the wedge of dirt that still supports pipes and utilities, which will be attached to the bridge during construction. After that, the last fill material will be removed, leaving a wide-open estuary flowing under the bridge.

The construction has created some inconvenience for folks in the Kingston area, but the project promises to enhance salmon migration in Carpenter Creek, restore tidal function in the estuary and enhance the salt marsh for a variety of creatures. The creek and/or the estuary may be used by chum, coho and chinook salmon, along with steelhead and cutthroat trout.

Stillwaters Environmental Center is coordinating monitoring in the estuary to measure improvements in the ecosystem. Before and after elevation measurements will help describe the physical changes, while biological surveys identify changes in water quality, vegetation, fish and insect populations, among other things.

A new bridge takes shape where West Kingston Road crosses the upper estuary of Carpenter Creek. // Photo: Kitsap County Public Works

I am particularly interested in how the new bridge will further improve the function of the estuary, which is the last major stop-over point for juvenile salmon on their way out of Puget Sound, according to biologists. The bridge on West Kingston Road is the second phase of a project that began in 2012, when a small box culvert was replaced with a 90-foot-long bridge on South Kingston Road. The first bridge crosses the lower estuary, while the new bridge crosses the upper estuary.

While my focus has been on life in the estuary, the project goes beyond the ecosystem, Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder told Kitsap Sun reporter (now retired) Ed Friedrich in a story published in March at the beginning of construction.

Here’s what the old culvert looked like before the recent project began.
Photo: Kitsap County Public Works.

“This isn’t just a culvert-replacement project but a project that will increase the safety and functionality for drivers and pedestrians alike,” Rob said. “Road closure is never easy, but I hope the community will appreciate the improvements when it’s all complete.”

The work involves widening the travel lanes, adding 5-foot pedestrian and bike lanes on the north side and a 6-foot paved shoulder on the south side. In addition, street lighting will be added.

As of today, the project has fallen behind schedule, according to Tina Nelson, senior program manager for Kitsap County Public Works. Tina said she hopes the contractor, Redside Construction of Bainbridge Island, will catch up enough to allow the road to reopen by the end of December, as originally scheduled.

Officials will be assessing the situation through the end of October, she said. If it appears the bridge and roadway won’t be ready for opening by Dec. 31, then an announcement will be made in late October or early November. Advance notice is needed because of school bus routing and scheduling after the new year.

The causes of the delay are many, Tina told me, but it generally boils down to scheduling of project materials and crews, for which the contractor is responsible. The contract calls for the work to be done in a certain number of days, she said, and the contractor will lose money if the work is not completed on time.

So far, fish passage has not been an issue, although chum salmon could soon move into the estuary — if they haven’t already — as they begin their fall migration. If fish try to move upstream before the channel is reopened, officials with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will help determine the best way to safely get them upstream.

Much of the $3-million project is funded by the Navy as mitigation for ecological damage caused by the 2012 renovation of Pier B at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton.

State budget supports Carpenter Creek bridge

Folks concerned about wild salmon in North Kitsap are celebrating the Legislature’s funding of $2.8 million for the long-awaited bridge at the mouth of Carpenter Creek near Kingston.

The project has been on and off for a decade, as I explained in story I wrote for the Kitsap Sun in December. The lobbying effort by bridge supporters, including the Kitsap County commissioners, was intense. That and continued support from Kitsap’s legislators are credited with getting the bridge funded.

It seems unlikely that bids for the bridge project can be advertised and contracts approved in time for this summer’s construction season, given the need to work around salmon migration. But we’ll wait and see how things are scheduled.

Leaders of the state’s environmental groups were disappointed that the Legislature failed to raise a tax on toxic chemicals, which would have set aside $100 million a year for stormwater projects. Addressing stormwater is considered the top priority for improving the water quality of Puget Sound and other waterways.
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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.

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.