Bringing nature back to life

FOUR CORNERS — Butch Alford bought his current property based on the sole factor that there was a creek on the land. Not because it is a stone’s throw from the Hood Canal and the sounds of the shore are nearby.

Not because it’s set in a densely forested, secluded area on Kinman Road. But because of his love for fish — for sport, for the environment, for its habitat.

Alford, Steve Todd, a habitat biologist for the Point No Point Treaty Council and Dr. Chris May, a wetland ecologist from University of Washington, plus a numerous amount of volunteers, have been working all summer to restore a section of Kinman creek that runs through the property.

When the land was purchased five years ago, the creek was pretty much a ditch, said May and Alford. Today, it’s a fast-flowing, restored waterway that is ready to support the runs of chum, coho and cutthroat that the creek has been historically known to hold — all this was instigated by Alford’s appreciation for fish and their natural habitat.

After digging out the “ditch,” the men added woody debris such as logs and cleared out blackberry bushes that had taken over the area. The logs, healthy tree root wads (for structure) and at least nine native plants, (for long term purposes, to provide shade and insects) were added to help enhance the natural environment. Deeper pools and hidden areas were created as well to protect fish from predators.

The second stage of the process was making beaver pools by adding weirs, which are basically strategically placed logs that increase water flow. Alford said he was surprised when the one of the main pools increased its volume water within a matter of hours after the weirs were added — instead of taking the expected couple days. The pools also created a place for the younger fish to safely swim.

Alford said since putting in the weirs, the amount of silt has also declined several inches, allowing the water to flow faster and letting gravel come to the surface of the creek’s bottom. That, he said, helps the spawning cycle.

The third stage involves the restoration of the salt marsh but probably won’t take place until next summer, Todd said.

“We’re doing more monitoring of this creek than usual because we want to use it as a template for other creeks,” May explained, noting that other streams, such as Jump Off Joe Creek, would benefit from the research.

All three men emphasized how important it is for the community to restore creeks.

“It opens up opportunity for people to do more work. A lot of streams have been logged off, or overdeveloped, subject to negligence. People have just written them off,” Todd said, adding that it’s important for people to realized that private landowners can improve their property.

“These small creeks don’t get a lot of press or attention,” May said. He also pointed out that the value of the smaller creeks are greater than one might think and agencies, such as Kitsap County Stream Team and Kitsap Conservation District, are available to help private landowners restore the creeks and natural habitats.

“(The creek restoration) was not done with the idea of throwing a hook and line in the back yard, but to enhance the small streams,” Alford said, adding that it is also just aesthetically pleasing.

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