Chimacum Creek Restoration Begins
On November 19th, 2014 The North Olympic Salmon Coalition and the Washington Conservation Corp came to our farm and began the task of reestablishing native Coho Salmon habitat. There is a creek that runs through Eaglemount Farms called Chimacum. It once was a prime habitat for Coho and other sea run fish. The rich soils of our valley were enriched by the sea-run salmon. Chimacum Creek is home to at least three types of fish who belong to the salmon family (called salmonids). Summer chum (also called dog salmon), coho (also knows as silver salmon), and cutthroat trout are the three confirmed salmonid species in Chimacum Creek. The original salmon habitat was spruce-cedar bog conditions with beaver ponds, vast forests, wetlands, and side channels, but 90% of that is now gone.(Cherney 2013). The salmon were responsible for the mineralization of the wild Western Red Cedar bogs and created the farm soils that we steward now. Because of the removal of large trees and beaver ponds and the straightening of the creek a non-native invasive Reed Canary grass overtook the creek and blocked wildlife and salmon access. Without the trees, shrubs and other native plants that once grew alongside Chimacum Creek; the invasive grass has been able to thrive.
Chimacum Creek originates in a number of spring fed tributaries and lakes in the forested hills of east Jefferson County on the northeast side of the Olympic Peninsula. The creek is considered a very old Salmon habitat. . Since European settlement in the 1850s, an estimated 6% of summer rearing habitat, 3% of winter rearing habitat and 88% of spawning habitat remains. Of this remaining habitat, most has been further degraded in terms of low oxygen and elevated stream temperatures associated with lack of forested riparian zones, heavy siltation of spawning and rearing areas and loss of channel complexity and structure, particularly the loss of large woody debris (Bahls and Rubin 1996).
Chimacum Creek flows into two glacially carved lowland valleys dominated by pastureland with peat and muck soils. This would describe our soil type to the tea. Our part of the creek is fed from Delaney Lake.
Eaglemount Farms has a vision of farming and living in harmony with the wild. It was our goal to clean up the creek, get rid of invasive grass and replant native plants that will protect and reestablish creek flow. We made what changes we could by planting willows and other native plants, but the invasive grass took over more and more habitat. The grass was introduced to the US in the 1960’s to feed cattle. It quickly spread through many localities including ours. The grass strangles out all native plants and fills in the channels of creeks and rivers. Great effort must be taken to over-power this grass. Our efforts would involve several conservation groups and will require our on-going vigilance.
Our friend Bob Triggs, the local salmon conservation guru, told us about the North Olympic Salmon Coalition and their wonderful Stewardship coordinator, Sarah. We worked with her for several months making sure our need for a chemical-free habitat reconstruction (we are an organic farm!) and our wish to plant the creek with native plants that will build a pollinator pathway were honored. A pollinator pathway of native plants establishes plants that bloom and provide food and habitat for pollinators from early spring to late fall. Working with the Xerces Society, invertebrate conservationists extraordinaire, a list of plants were drawn up and the date was set for the work to begin.
On November 19, 2014 the Washington Conservation Corp sent a team of people to begin the work.
The creek bed was once five feet across; it now was mostly filled with Reed Canary Grass. A few willows and some Spirea had taken hold from our first planting several years ago. They met with us and heard our concerns for the native salamanders and newts that use what is left of the creek for winter habitat. And then the work began.
DAY ONE: Chimacum Creek restoration.
Sarah from NOSC and Washington Conservation team showed up we held a short meeting to talk about the project and our vision for the land. About 1,000 feet of creek will be restored. Wildlife including salamanders, newts, dragonflies, frogs, fish and the local wild geese will be protected. Native plants will be reintroduced and they will make up our new “pollinator pathway”. WCC members then began their work. The first day was spent cutting the great stand of Reed Canary Grass that had taken over the creek
Day Two: Chimacum Creek Restoration
Further grass is removed and shallow holes are dug to place the native plants into. The holes will be dug deeper once the
actual planting begins. The team will be back in a couple of weeks to begin planting. Blue tubes will be placed around the plants to protect them from mice and other hungry creatures.
We wish to thank the North Olympic Salmon Coalition and the Washington Conservation Corps for their hard work and dedication. Please donate to NOSC and help them to continue their important work. Here is a link to their website: North Olympic Salmon Coalition.
TO BE CONTINUED….
Cherney, Audrey Miles (NOSC) 2013
Salmon and Steelhead limiting factors, Water Resource Inventory Area 17, Quilcene to Snow basin, Washington State Conservation Commission – Final Report, November 2002, Ginna Correa, Viewed on the web on November 24, 2014 –at http://www.pugetsoundnearshore.org/supporting_documents/wria_17_lfa.pdf