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County, Suquamish tribe make Chico Estuary purchase official

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

Kitsap County and the Suquamish Tribal Council took the first steps Wednesday in fully restoring the Chico Creek Estuary.

At an afternoon ceremony, all three Kitsap County commissioners, members of the Tribal Council and representatives from several state agencies made the recent purchase of the 670-foot waterfront area official.

“The Tribal Council sees this as an opportunity to combine resources with other governments to reverse some of the damage that’s been done (to local streams),” said Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman. “Taking care of this run is our number one priority in the county.”

The 3.23-acre parcel is made up of 2.69 acres of upland and .54 acres of tide flats. It is located along the shoreline just northeast of the Chico Way exit on State Route 3 at the north end of Kitty Hawk Drive NW.

Tribe members blessed the land during the ceremony and re-christened it with a Native American Lushootseed name that means “Place of Chum Salmon.” Forsman also dedicated the land to North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer and to three families that donated a large sum of money to purchase the land.

“It’s important for our culture, our future and our way of life,” Forsman said.

The purchase came with a $500,000 price tag, which was divvied up between the Tribal Council ($160,000), the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office ($160,000) and three families and private landowners — Ron and Nadean Ross, Pete and Dona Ross and Robert and Melissa Olsen ($180,000).

Focus will now shift to returning the area to its natural state. Specifically, the county is looking at a plan to remove two culverts at the intersects of Chico Creek and SR 3 and Chico Creek and Kitty Hawk Drive and to build a new access road off Chico Way to properties on Kitty Hawk Drive. The SR 3 culvert would be replaced by a bridge while the Kitty Hawk Drive culvert would simply be removed.

“The big deal is once we get (Kitty Hawk Drive) abandoned ... we have a concurrent issue to get a bridge built here,” Forsman said. “That’s huge for us.”

Kitsap County will begin assessing the costs of removing the culverts around April, thanks to a $125,000 grant from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. The assessment should be completed by late January 2009.

Presently, the culverts are creating a “velocity barrier” for salmon, said Paul Dorn, salmon recovery coordinator for the Tribe Fisheries Department. Several salmon were stuck trying to get upstream during the ceremony on Wednesday. Water from Chico Creek had completely covered Kitty Hawk Drive on Monday and a couple small sections of road were undercut.

“(The recent flooding) gives the impetus to get the restoration work done,” Kitsap County Habitat Biologist Kathy Peters said.

During heavy rains and floods, when the creek increases in volume, the culverts pinch it off, making the water flow faster. Once the culverts are removed, the creek will widen and flow slower, making it easier for salmon to migrate upstream.

The county might be eligible to receive federal funding for the project because of flood damage to the area. The county will apply for federal aid during the next few months, but funds aren’t guaranteed, county spokesman Clarence Moriwaki said.

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