PORT ANGELES (June 29, 2004) – With the help of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, a stretch of Ennis Creek that flows through Jim and Robbie Mantooth’s property is being restored into a more fish-friendly environment. The tribe is restoring habitat in the creek by adding wood that will slow the stream’s flow and help form pools and trap much-needed gravel, creating a healthier habitat for salmon, trout and other wildlife.
Guided walks to view the restoration project will be a feature of the North Olympic Land Trust’s StreamFest education and fundraising event on Sept. 12. The Mantooths’ 30-acre property is protected permanently through a conservation easement agreement they made with the land trust in 1998.
“StreamFest gives North Olympic Land Trust an opportunity to show people what a conservation easement can do to protect and restore special qualities of lands,” said Jim Mantooth, who is president of the North Olympic Land Trust that serves Clallam County. “So, we’re excited about participants being able to view the restoration work and follow progress in improving habitat for fish and other wildlife.”
Throughout the past century, the lower stretch of Ennis Creek has been altered by logging practices, and more significantly, by development. Important streamside vegetation has been removed to accommodate urban and industrial development, degrading salmon spawning and rearing habitat. Storm-water runoff affects the creek’s water quality, and problems with the Highway 101 culvert make it difficult for fish to access spawning habitat. As a result, fish populations in Ennis Creek have declined to critically low levels. Ennis Creek supports a small coho salmon and steelhead population, as well as cutthroat trout. Only four steelhead redds – or nests – were found in one reach of the creek during spawning surveys this past spring.
The goal of the project, which is funded by a Bureau of Indian Affairs watershed restoration program grant, is to help bring those fish populations back to their once abundant numbers by repairing the habitat. Large woody debris and rocks are being placed in the creek to slow the river and prevent the destruction of salmon redds during high winter flows. The logjams also will provide shelter for juvenile fish and create pools and riffles for spawning salmon that return to Ennis Creek.
“We are trying to repair the creek’s habitat and create a better environment for salmon and other wildlife in this area,” said Mike McHenry, fisheries habitat manager for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. “We will be doing another restoration project on Ennis Creek later this summer on property owned by the City of Port Angeles. These two restoration projects, however, won’t solve Ennis Creek’s habitat problems altogether.”
The plan is to provide a refuge area above Highway 101 that will help stabilize fish populations while the tribe awaits further restoration projects on the former Rayonier Inc. pulp mill site near the creek’s mouth, said McHenry. Restoration, however, can’t occur in these areas until the scope of a cleanup project at the mill site is determined.
In the late 1800s, the Puget Sound Cooperative Colony operated a sawmill near the mouth of Ennis Creek in Port Angeles harbor. In 1930, the sawmill was rebuilt into a pulp mill that Rayonier Inc. operated at the site. Those mills displaced the river’s estuary, eliminating a critical transition zone for salmon migrating from fresh to salt water. Rayonier, which closed the pulp mill in 1997, has been working with the tribe and the state Department of Ecology on cleaning the polluted site. The groups also are studying how to properly restore the estuary.
Before the arrival of non-Indians, the mouth of Ennis Creek was a culturally significant site for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. Located near the estuary was Y’innis, a large settlement that was home to the Lower Elwha Klallam Indians for thousands of years. Y’innis, which means “good beach,” was one of two Klallam villages located in what is now Port Angeles harbor.
“We are very grateful to live by Ennis Creek, and we feel that we have a responsibility to help it reach its potential,” said Robbie. “Many people are realizing that Ennis Creek is a valuable asset, economically as well as environmentally. It’s within walking distance of downtown Port Angeles on the waterfront trail. A protected stream with restored fish runs should be a wonderful place for residents and tourists, as well as a great place for people to learn what it takes to keep streams healthy and productive.”
Robbie and Jim have been working with the Tribe, the North Olympic Land Trust, the City of Port Angeles, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the State Department of Transportation, an area watershed planning council, Friends of Ennis Creek, Rayonier and other groups on resolving problems related to Ennis Creek’s habitat.
“We share the same goals as the tribe,” said Jim. “And the tribe has been a great partner on this project. Work like this helps bring the community together and creates a better place for all of us to live.”
For more information, contact: Mike McHenry, fisheries habitat manager for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, (360) 457-4012 ext. 14, [email protected]. Darren Friedel, information officer for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360) 297-6546, [email protected].