The Suquamish Tribe is working with federal and county agencies to restore a significant part of Chico Creek by removing a fish-blocking culvert at its mouth. The project is one more step in the tribe’s massive restoration effort within the Chico watershed.

The mouth of the creek is known to the Suquamish as the “Place of Chum Salmon.” It is one the largest native salmon-producing creeks in Puget Sound. An average of 30,000 fish spawn in the watershed each year.

The tribe partnered with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Kitsap County and the U.S. Navy to make the project a reality.

“The Suquamish people have relied on the dog salmon of Chico Creek for thousands of year as a source of food for the winter season,” said Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman. “We are happy that the first of the three fish-blocking culverts will be removed through our partnership with the EPA, Kitsap County and the Navy. We look forward to giving these ancestral fish a fighting chance for survival.”

The removal of the culvert will allow native chum salmon, the watershed’s predominate salmon species, to take advantage of a widened estuary. Currently, when the tide is low, salmon have a hard time reaching the culvert to continue their spawning journey upstream. In the fall, when the creek is running high and fast, the volume and speed of the creek water makes it difficult for salmon to access the culvert.

“It will be interesting to see how the channel realigns itself after the estuary is returned to a more natural condition,” said Jay Zischke, the tribe’s marine fisheries manager. “Box culverts such as the ones we are removing are effective for conveying water, but negatively impact the way an estuary should work by constricting channel movement, water flow and fish access.”

The tribe has been working hard to keep Chico Creek one of the most sustainable salmon-producing creeks in the region. In the past year alone, the tribe has installed tons of gravel and dozens of rootwads near the mouth of the creek to help slow the water and create pools that salmon need.

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For more information, contact Leonard Forsman, Suquamish Tribal Chairman, at (360) 598-3311 or lforsman@suquamish.nsn.us; or Jay Zischke, Suquamish Tribe marine fisheries manager, at (360) 394-8444 or jzischke@suquamish.nsn.us; or Tiffany Royal, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission information officer, at (360) 297-6546 or troyal@nwifc.org.