Earth Day volunteers landscape Swinomish restoration site

The Skagit Valley Herald (subscription required) covered an Earth Day event on the Swinomish Reservation this weekend:

Volunteers participated in five environmental service projects in the morning, before relaxing with an afternoon of music, crafts and a salmon lunch.

The service projects included stream restoration work at Lone Tree Creek, within the Thousand Trails campground, clean-up work on the beach at nearby Lone Tree Point and along the Swinomish Channel, blackberry removal around a tribal elder’s home, and invasive Scotch broom and blackberry removal near Swinomish Slough.

Volunteers at the Lone Tree Creek site planted hundreds of delicate native plants and grasses along salmon-bearing Lone Tree Creek, including American Bulrush, Pacific Silverweed, and clumps of Sitka and Slough sedge.

A $220,000 Swinomish-funded restoration project in fall 2006 transformed the creek from a series of 2-foot-wide corrugated culverts along the campground road that salmon couldn’t navigate to a more natural, free-flowing and salmon-friendly stream.

“This whole area was like a little ditch, mostly used as drainage and overgrown with blackberries,” said Todd Mitchell of the Swinomish Planning Office, as he supervised Saturday’s volunteer work crew.

The restoration work widened and opened the stream, replacing the undersized culverts with a 40-foot bridge and wider 8- to 10-foot culverts. The improvements allow for fish passage, and better stream habitat and water quality. They also allow the tides to flow into the pocket estuary, where salt and fresh water mix and create prime habitat for juvenile salmon.

The work has paid off. Mitchell said chinook salmon have already been spotted there since the restoration.

Volunteers on Saturday added native plants and grasses to the trees and bushes already in place along the creek.

“We plant the riparian area to act as a buffer and act as a filter for run-off,” Mitchell said.