Opinion

About our series, 'Ghost Streams' | Editorial

'Ghost Streams,' a North Kitsap Herald series.
— image credit: Logo designed Tad Sooter

Today, we launch a series, “Ghost Streams.” During the course of the series, we invite you to comment and share information about streams and watersheds in your neighborhood.

The state Department of Natural Resources developed stream identification maps that are now used by most local governments to help identify critical habitat. But the technology DNR used — which relies heavily on computer modeling — is often inaccurate and never intended to guide development.

With funding from the Salmon Recovery Board, Wild Fish Conservancy scientists have spent two years field-checking the veracity of DNR maps in North Kitsap and gathering habitat information to assist restoration work.

The results of their work is startling. DNR maps consistently underestimate the reach of streams in the area and the extent of fish habitat. Many creeks are charted in the wrong places or missing altogether. Other fish-bearing streams marked on the map simply don’t exist.

“A survey of Cowling Creek, north of Suquamish, found that Natural Resources maps had missed 66 percent of the watershed, including four miles of fish-bearing stream,” Herald reporter Tad Sooter writes.

More accurate maps would help ensure critical habitat is protected. It could also affect how residents use their land — one Hansville property owner learned during a field check last week that a seasonal drainage in his yard,  identified on DNR maps as fish-bearing, is almost certainly not. While the Fish Conservancy’s work is valuable, it’s not the end solution. Fixing these maps will take a concerted effort on the state level, and the support of an educated public. We’ll discuss possible solutions next week in part 2.

To comment or share information during the series, write Editor, Herald, P.O. Box 278, Poulsbo, WA. 98370. Email rwalker@northkitsapherald.com. See accompanying content, including links, photographs and maps online at NorthKitsapHerald.com.

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