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A creek reborn

Onlookers check out the work recently completed on the first phase of the Chico Creek restoration project.    - Photo by Jesse Beals
Onlookers check out the work recently completed on the first phase of the Chico Creek restoration project.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

For decades, chum salmon have found the trip up Chico Creek through the Kitsap Golf and Country Club difficult at best as a narrow stream channel created I-5 rush hour congestion during their annual pilgrimage to spawn.

Despite the crowded conditions, the creek is one of the top chum-producing creeks in Western Washington as an estimated 60,000-70,000 chum passed through the creek this year.

Now, thanks to the combined efforts of Kitsap County, the Suquamish Tribe, the Kitsap Golf and Country Club and the state of Washington among others, the journey has been made easier as the first phase of the Chico Creek mainstem restoration project is nearly complete.

Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown invited the public to celebrate the rebirth of the creek Nov. 21.

"Hopefully this is just one of many projects to restore very productive salmon streams," Brown said.

The project wouldn't have been successful had it not been for the collaborative effort by all those involved who found ways to overcome the many obstacles, which stood in the project's way, he said, noting there were times when the project almost didn't move forward because of lack of funding.

"There wasn't going to be enough funding for the entire project, so our staff broke it into two phases," Brown said.

The first phase of the project restored 500 feet of the creek's mainstem at the golf course, while the second phase will restore another 600 feet of the mainstem, including a permanent solution to the failing weirs that block salmon.

Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman thanked everyone involved in the project for their support and a job well done.

"We will continue to work to restore it, and we still have a lot of work to do," Forsman said.

23rd Leg. District state Rep. Christine Rolfes said even as the state Legislature copes with an expected budget deficit in the upcoming legislative session, she will do her best to ensure funding remains for salmon recovery efforts.

"It has to be a priority," Rolfes said, adding that the annual salmon runs up the creek are sources of inspiration for everyone.

Even though she has visited numerous national parks throughout the United States, Rolfes said the sight of thousands of salmon returning to their home waters is one of the most impressive and natural beauty must be protected for future generations.

For Ian Mostrenko, of Herrera Environmental Consultants, who designed the restoration project, seeing it completed is an example of how things should be done.

"I'm glad to see so many people care about this project," Mostrenko said, recalling a similar stream from his childhood days in British Columbia, which was once filled with salmon, but now not a single fish remains because of the impact of urban development on its waters.

Kitsap Golf and Country Club Manager Paul Ramsdell expressed the group's gratitude to everyone who helped the club finally do what it couldn't do on its own.

"It's a great example of what public and private entities can do when they work together," Ramsdell said.

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