Washington Department of Ecology, in partnership with the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust was awarded $310,000 to permanently protect 175 acres of high quality coastal surge plain and six miles of sloughs at the head of Grays Harbor. This acquisition is part of a larger effort to conserve the Chehalis River Surge Plain and is located next to the Chehalis River Surge Plain Natural Area Preserve and an Audubon Society Preserve.
Once regarded as wastelands, wetlands are now recognized as important features of our landscape. In fact, healthy coastal wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems on the planet, comparable to rainforests and coral reefs. Wetlands are part of a diverse and complex set of ecosystems that are vital to Washington’s economy and an important part of our natural heritage (ECOconnect).
Elliott Slough to become protected wetland
Much of Elliott Slough is pristine wetland with few invasive species. About 500,000 shorebirds visit the area each year and it is home to several species of animals, including river otters, and black bears.
Wild Fish Conservancy
Grays Harbor Juvenile Salmon/Fish Use Assessment
The Wild Fish Conservancy is heading a juvenile salmon/fish use assessment to develop a scientific basis for the evaluation of potential sites for future habitat restoration and protection projects.
The project seeks to document the distribution, abundance, habitat use, and timing of juvenile salmonids and other fishes in the Grays Harbor estuary, from riverine tidal waters through marine habitats.
Grays Harbor is the fourth largest estuary on the west coast of North America and is situated between the mouth of the Columbia River and the Olympic Peninsula. Its major tributary is the Chehalis River, one of the largest rivers in Washington. It is also the estuary for a number of the southern draining rivers of the Olympic Mountains, including the Humptulips, Wishkah, Wynoochee, and Satsop. Historically, Grays Harbor supported large runs of Chinook, coho, and chum salmon, as well as steelhead, cutthroat, and bull trout, but for a variety of reasons most of these populations have declined. The estuary is also an important rearing ground for a variety of larval and juvenile baitfish, including surf smelt, herring, anchovy, and sardines, which make up an important trophic layer in the marine food web.
In an effort to better understand how juvenile salmon utilize estuarine habitats in Grays Harbor, the Wild Fish Conservancy is initiating a multi-year study that will include a habitat inventory and assessment as well as sampling of the juvenile fish community throughout tidally influenced portions of the estuary. Juvenile fish will be sampled using beach seines and fyke nets, and the information collected will include species, size, abundance, water quality parameters, and coded wire tags. We will also takefin clips from steelhead, cutthroat and bull trout for genetic analysis to aid the WDFW and NOAA Fisheries in their efforts to create a genetic baseline database for these populations on the Washington coast. (Wild Fish Conservancy, Sandell, T. and Fletcher, J., http://wildfishconservancy.org).
McDonald Creek Restoration Project
McDonald Creek Background: The Chehalis Basin Fisheries Task Force and the Grays Harbor Stream Team have selected McDonald Creek, a tributary of the Chehalis River, for fish passage improvement.
In the spring of 2010 the Figlar-Barnes family from Elma attended a Grays Harbor Stream Team meeting to ask their support in helping with a McDonald Creek Restoration project. Jarred Figlar-Barnes, then a freshman at Elma High School, is the mastermind behind the project and has done much of pre-planning and assessment work getting the project ready for grant applications.
McDonald Creek is located in Elma, Washington. A watershed assessment for the area identifies failing culverts and aquatic habitat modifications as limiting salmonid species. In order for salmonid population recovery the creek needs several improvements. The project has been divided into three phases.
PowerPoint Presentation: View the PowerPoint created by project manager, Jarred Figlar Barnes:
- Phase 1 is in a low gradient area dominated by farm fields and livestock grazing. Three culverts and a small concrete blockage are associated with the restoration activities of this phase.
- Phase 2 involves working with a hospital district and a local landowner who is building a large church. Both of projects have funding set aside to restore McDonald creek as it runs through their property.
- Phase 3 is associated with the mid and upper watershed and consists of working with various landowner enhancing culverts and smaller riparian areas.
Phase 1 Projects
Install a 40' riparian zone along the creek from the lower bridge to Marion Road box culvert
using native trees, shrubs, and fencing. Also put meanders in the stream and develop small ponds
for drinking water for livestock. This will improve water quality of McDonald Creek by preventing
cow access and restore shade and gradient for salmonid migration and outmigrations.
Remove shotgun culvert beneath field access road and replace it with a 40' long bridge.
This will greatly improve flood flow and improve fish passage. Funding: This project was
funded by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board in 2011 and will be completed in 2012.
Remove a small concrete dam below Marion roads concrete box culvert, which during low flows impedes adult and juvenile salmon passage to improve fish passage. Completed: Small concrete barrier has been removed; stream was re-graded with added gravels; and riparian barrier was planted. Funding: This project was funded by a $10,500 grant from Ecology.
WDOT crew’s will clear vegetation from HWY 12’s box culvert, to improve fish passage and flood flow. Project Outcome; improve passage.
Put in a small 10' to 20' riparian zone at farm field above HWY 12 along a 660' section of the creek. Plant native trees and shrubs, to shade McDonald Creek and improve the water quality of stream by preventing cow access. Meander creek if needed. Small ponds will be dug for drinking water for livestock. This will improve the water quality of McDonald Creek by preventing cow access and restore shade and gradient for salmonid migration and out-migrations.
Remove old undersized steel culvert under East Waldrip Street. Replace with either a larger box culvert or a small bridge. Salmon have been observed in the system in the past but recently no adult salmon have been observed. McDonald Creek is a very important low gradient, off-channel refuge for fish during winter flooding and a location for fish to spawn during the spring and fall.
Spawning gravel is available from the McDonald watershed to replenish the historic spawning beds and should contribute to the recovery of the fish populations in the area.
Landowners adjacent to the culvert replacement site are collaborators on the project. In addition, Elma Middle and High School students will be involved in the project through riparian tree plantings, garbage clean-ups, water quality monitoring, and other hands-on activities.
The Grays Harbor Stream Team has sponsored two McDonald Creek site visits in fall 2010 to invite landowners and other interested community members to come out and learn about some of the potential projects. In December 2010, the Stream Team held a community meeting, where interested landowners gathered to express concern and learn more about the project.
This multi-partner project will demonstrate to other private landowners the benefits their stewardship can have for the restoration of salmonid resources.
McDonald Creek Restoration - Phases II and III
Project 1: Observe the construction of a church along 750 ft of McDonald Creek. Opportunity to replace culvert under the road with either a box culvert or bridge. This road leads to where the new church will be built. Remove blackberries that suffocate the stream, to improve stream flow and fish passage. Estimated cost of McDonald Creek restoration $100,000
Project 2: Observe the construction of the new Mark Reed Hospital. Re-direct creek to historic channel, (creek length from 1050 ft to improved 1350 ft) to improve gravels, increase banks and capacity to hold flood waters. Add woody debris and native plants to banks of stream, over all increasing the streams capacity for fish. Mark Reed Hospital Construction budget for McDonald Creek restoration $200,000
Project 3: West Fork of McDonald Creek --possibly re-grading McDonald creek largest tributary (1.17 miles) so that it’s fish passable. This would open up habitat to many species including salmon and trout.
Project 1: Improvement or replacement of the box culvert under Oakhurst Dr. On the lower end of this culvert the water drops about a half a foot to a foot. In high waters there’s a high velocity of water flowing through the culvert and down the drop. This will improve fish passage especially in high flows.
Project 2: Improvement or replacement of the failing two part box/round culvert under the Northern Pacific Railway. At upper end of the culvert there is some riprap to prevent erosion. Removal of rocks in stream will improve fish passage. If replaced with a box culvert it would improve flood flow as well as fish passage.
Project 3: Replacement of old rusty 50 year old steel culvert under Mr. Schouweiler driveway. This will improve flood flow and fish passage.
Project 4: Possible widening of banks through private property. Would improve streams capacity for flood waters.
Project 5: Possible replacement of old failing concrete culvert under Stamper Rd. Two other tributaries drain through this culvert. Replacement would improve flood flow from these streams as well as open up more habitat for fish, and increase access to rearing habitat for salmon in the wetlands.
Project 6: In the 1960’s Stamper Rd. was straightened so they rerouted McDonald Creek on the west side of the road in a ditch. There’s a great opportunity to meander the creek, remove vegetation in creek, and plant native trees and shrubs along its banks. This would improve fish habitat, add some shade, as well as greatly increase the streams capacity for flood waters.
Project 7: Widen banks and add a small riparian zone to the part of the creek that runs through Ray Barker’s Property. Will provide shade for fish and will increase the streams capacity for flood waters.
Project 8: Removal of a shotgun culvert under a private drive way. Replace with a box culvert, bottomless steel culvert or small bridge. This will allow fish to enter the wetlands and beaver ponds for spawning and rearing. This will also greatly reduce the flooding and backup behind this private driveway.
Project 9: The possible restoration of the largest tributary to McDonald Creek. Possible restoration includes; culvert replacement, riparian zones, expanding banks, and vegetation removal. This would increase spawning habitat and improve flood flow.
Removal of invasive vegetation along creek. This will improve the over all habitat of the creek and in some cases reduce flooding, this will also give native trees and shrubs a chance to grow.
Removal of cement and asphalt slabs scattered throughout the middle of the stream.
Follow up Projects
Possibly having annual Gray’s Harbor Stream Team clean up; trash and invasive plant removal.
Maintenance of riparian zones, weed removal, weed whacking around planted plants.
Possibly having surveys to see if salmon have returned. Funding and technical assistance for improvements on McDonald Creek are also being provided by other state, federal and local agencies.
- Grays Harbor County was the recipient of the 2011 Ecology grant.
- The Mason Conservation District has completed surveying and engineering design for the shot gun culvert replacement.
- The City of Elma is on board with the project, offering their support.
- The Grays Harbor Conservation District has agreed to work with the landowners on Phase 1 to install the 40 foot riparian area.
- The WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife donated 20 Coho spawning pairs that were placed in sections of the creek this fall. To date, at least 3 redds have been observed from the spawning pairs.
- The Chehalis Basin Fisheries Task Force is project sponsor on all grant applications.
Restoration of Fish Passage in Preacher’s Slough, A Tidally Influenced Side Channel of the Chehalis River
Chehalis Basin Surge Plain
The Chehalis Basin Surge Plain Bridge Project restored fish passage to upper Preacher’s Slough, an extraordinary Sitka spruce-forested tidally influenced wetland within a Washington Department of Natural Resources Natural Area Preserve. This project will provide juvenile salmon with access to high-quality rearing and feeding habitat as well as enhance public access to the Chehalis River. WDNR completed the project while continuing to provide public access to the Chehalis River across the Chehalis River Surge Plain Natural Area Preserve.
The panoramic view above shows the Preacher’s Slough barrier preventing the flow of an incoming tide. During the ebb time, the left (upstream) side of the barrier retains water while the right (downstream) side of the barrier remains dry. On the flood tide, both sides of the slough fill as water backs up into the slough from seven miles downstream.
The new 80-foot concrete bridge now allows natural tidal and freshwater flow in Preachers Slough, allowing the floodplain to function naturally. The Chehalis Basin Fisheries Task Force used a Salmon Recovery Grant along with $231,387 in its own cash and donated labor for the project.
View the PowerPoint created by project managers, Birdie Davenport, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Natural Areas Program and Lonnie Crumley, Streamworks Consulting, and Chehalis Basin Fisheries Task Force.