BLYN (Feb. 25, 2003) — It took several months and three excavators but a new channel for the Jimmeycomelately Creek is nearly finished, paving the way for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe to focus much of its restoration efforts this summer on the lower portion of the creek that empties into Sequim Bay.

“We still have some work to do in terms of excavating and bringing in wood and gravel for the channel. That should start in May and be completed by the end of July, finishing the first phase of the restoration project,” said Byron Rot, habitat biologist for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. “Then we are going to swing into the estuary, where there is a number of things that need to be done.”

The goal is to return the creek and estuary back to their natural state, a healthy wetland for fish and wildlife. The creek’s newly created channel, which follows its historic course, will eventually flow into the estuary. But first, roads and landfill need to be removed from the estuary, returning it to its original state. The tribe and two state agencies purchased about 25 acres of land at the mouth of the creek in 2002.

The project, which began last year, is necessary because of past mismanagement. During the early 1900s, the creek was rerouted and moved to the side of the valley to allow space for farming. Over time, pools, essential for salmon, disappeared along the lower portion of the creek as the channel filled with gravel. The creek’s meandering channel will restore that habitat, which is important to threatened Hood Canal/Eastern Strait Juan de Fuca summer chum. The creek also is home to steelhead and cutthroat trout, along with coho salmon. “Birds also will benefit from the restoration,” Rot said. “A number of different species use Sequim Bay. And what’s good for the fish is good for the birds and vice versa.”

Not only will salmon and waterfowl benefit from the project but so could commuters and people living in the area. In the past, Jimmeycomelately Creek has flooded during winter rainstorms, once closing Highway 101, the only east/west arterial in the area. Moving the creek back to the lowest part of the valley will decrease the chances of flooding in the area.

Estuary restoration at the old log yard has been a priority for the tribe for over 10 years. Along with the tribe, several landowners and local, state and federal agencies are participating in the restoration.

“It’s an amazing project, with so many groups working together,” Rot said. “We are trying to accomplish a large-scale project in a relatively small watershed, and we hope that this will be used as a model for many watersheds with similar problems.”

The earliest the constructed channel would be connected is July 2004, with remaining estuary restoration in 2005, said Rot. Of course that depends on no major unforeseen obstacles and bad weather. The project’s price tag is about $6 million, with the bridge accounting for 25 percent of the total cost, and it is mostly funded by state and federal grants.

In addition to the tribe, other partners involved in the Jimmycomelately project include local landowners, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Clallam County, the Clallam Conservation District, Washington Department of Transportation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several local non-profit organizations. Funding for the land purchase include the state Department of Natural Resources (Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account), the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the state Department of Ecology, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (National Aquatic Wetlands Conservation Act), the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the EPA.

For more information, contact: Byron Rot, habitat biologist, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, (360) 681-4615. Darren Friedel, information officer, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (360) 297-6546, dfriedel@nwifc.org.

Photos available. Can be e-mailed at high resolution. Contact Darren Friedel at above number.