Salmon restoration results in park for Shelton

The Squaxin Island Tribe’s pursuit of a massive salmon restoration project on Shelton Harbor has given the city of Shelton their first marine shoreline park.

The first step of the multi-phase project was to preserve 1,600 feet of shoreline. With a grant written by the tribe, the Capitol Land Trust purchased the 14-acre site at Eagle Point. The land trust then gifted the entire parcel to the city, which plans to build nature trails to allow residents access to the shoreline.

The Eagle Point property includes a freshwater wetland, tidelands and riparian upland.

“In years past, this would have been an ideal place for either a residential development or industrial use,” said Scott Steltzner, habitat biologist for the tribe. “Fortunately, most of this stretch of shoreline will stay protected forever.”

The tribe is coordinating the effort to restore salmon habitat along Shelton Harbor in cooperation with Simpson Timber, the Port of Shelton, the Capitol Land Trust, Mason Conservation District and the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group.

Eagle Point is adjacent to the industrial heart of Mason County’s logging-based economy. The project to restore salmon habitat along the shorelines of the Shelton industrial waterway will not impact commercial activity. “We hope this project in the harbor can show how well treaty rights, salmon recovery and commercial development can work together,” said Andy Whitener, natural resources director for the tribe.

Next summer the tribe and the enhancement group will begin constructing 14 logjams at the mouth of Goldsborough Creek, which flows into Shelton Harbor. The log structures are designed to capture sediment, helping to correct incising of the creek that began in the 1990s when a ferry dock was removed from the waterfront. “The creek down-cutting has threatened local utility crossings and hurts salmon as they try to navigate the creek,” Steltzner said.

In an earlier project, the tribe and Simpson Timber removed a dam from Goldsborough Creek, boosting the coho run in a region where other coho continue to decline. “Coho around the area are on a long-term downward spiral,” Steltzner said. “Our work on Goldsborough and in Shelton Harbor shows that we can reverse that trend, at least here.”

Other phases of the project will include creating intertidal habitat by placing new sand and gravel near the creek mouth.

“Despite all our efforts to restore salmon habitat, we continue to lose ground because of development and weak laws protecting salmon,” Whitener said. “Projects like these provide more and better habitat for the salmon we depend on, and protect our treaty-reserved fishing rights.”