New tools aid estuary restoration

As the Squaxin Island Tribe and partners continue to restore and revitalize Shelton Harbor, the tribe has turned to a new product from half a world away to make the project even more environmentally friendly.

Following a small but promising pilot program last year, the tribe, Mason Conservation District and South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group are installing 350 grids, referred to as BEES, to protect plants in the harbor’s newly formed estuary.

Each BEES grid—an acronym for a Dutch term—holds multiple plants. The grids were developed in the Netherlands and are made of potato-production byproducts. They’re biodegradable, meaning they accomplish an important goal—protecting new plants, especially their important root structure—while posing no risk of becoming harmful debris if washed away.

“They provide protection from waves and allow sediment to settle, which protects the plants so they can grow,” said Scott Steltzner, the tribe’s environmental program manager.

The tribe piloted 20 BEES last year and saw good plant survival rates. This year the effort is expanding.

“If this works, we can really scale up and do more,” Steltzner said.

Including the BEES installations, 3,500 plants have been planted in the estuary so far. The work is part of the Shelton Harbor Restoration Project, a multi-year effort that’s seen the tribe team up with Capitol Land Trust, the Port of Shelton, Sierra Pacific Industries, Simpson Lumber and others.

Among the benefits are the conservation of 48 acres of tidelands and 14 acres of upland. Clean sediment from local sources was used to construct 17 acres of salt marsh.

Above: Volunteers from Mason County Conservation District install BEES to protect plants at the Shelton Harbor Restoration Project. Photo and story: Trevor Pyle