Three Key Peninsula projects were among the recipients this year of grants aimed at preserving salmon habitat. The local projects, which included two new culverts on Rocky Creek and the repair of a failed culvert on Huge Creek, were completed in September.
“They were fish passage projects to open existing but blocked habitat,” said Kristin Williamson, project manager with the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group, which coordinated the projects. “The Key Peninsula watershed has been a focal area for our group and other groups for the last five to six years. The watersheds are so intact otherwise — they are ideal for fish passage projects.”
Two of the projects were located on private property and one was on a county road, on 144th off Wright Bliss Road. Williamson said the fish had to be diverted during the construction, and sizeable Coho, Chum and Cutthroat salmon were found. “It seemed like an incredibly healthy system,” she said.
The project entails a long-term commitment, including replanting of native plants, yearly monitoring, and some maintenance. Volunteers will return to the sites of the three projects this fall to complete the vegetation replanting.
Although the population in the specific stream areas may only number a few dozen fish, the affected streams are direct tributaries to Puget Sound, so they impact the entire stream system. The new culverts will allow the salmon to swim upstream, where they can spawn, and allow for enough room for juveniles to move freely for feeding and growing.
The South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group is one of 14 regional fishery enhancement groups in the state that started out as state Department of Fish and Wildlife satellites. The groups receive some base funding from the state and grants for individual projects.
This year’s Key Peninsula culvert projects were funded in part by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, which awarded $3.4 million in grants in January for Pierce County watershed projects. The board was created by the state Legislature in 1999 with the goal of supporting salmon recovery efforts and other programs related to fish and their habitat. The board awarded $290,000 for the Rocky Creek projects, and Pierce County provided matching funds and technical assistance. The project was identified as a priority in the Key Peninsula/Islands Basin Plan created by the KGI Watershed Council, comprised of representatives from various agencies and organizations as well as private individuals.
The South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group also completed several culvert restoration projects on the Key Peninsula last year, including the restoration of a Minter Creek culvert. Next year, another culvert project is planned on 144th Street in partnership with Pierce County.
“If you think of a watershed as an arterial, it’s all connected,” Williamson said. “The more small projects you do, the more habitat you have.”