This is the first in a series of articles by Waterman Mitigation Partners exploring the need to restore and preserve Kitsap’s damaged ecosystems in hopes of enhancing the ecology, the economy, and the cultural future of the Kitsap Peninsula and beyond.
The Kitsap Peninsula is a perfect example of the Pacific Northwest’s legendary natural beauty. On the surface, the Peninsula offers a pristine landscape. However, many ecosystems are not as healthy as they appear, and some are collapsing altogether. The truth is, if you look closer, you see ecosystems in decline due to 150+ years of development.
Forests, freshwater systems, tideland, and shoreline habitats are in decline.
One specific example of what people may not notice is how often salmon-bearing creeks and streams are choked and diverted by culverts. Some lament that these vital freshwater ecosystems are beyond repair, with decades of industrial development taking their toll on the flora and fauna.
There is concern that meaningful action is far too costly for state and local authorities to tackle. Fortunately, an unprecedented effort led by environmental conservation groups, tribal leaders, and motivated community members is underway to set Kitsap down a path of sustainable development and renewed biological diversity.
Historically infrastructure like roads and highways were prioritized over the habitat they were planned around. Fortunately public policy has shifted towards greater environmental protections and mitigations in recent decades. As the population of Kitsap increases, our critical habitats such as shorelines, estuaries, wetlands, and watershed systems will experience greater degradation and threat.
As this happens, and more infrastructure is developed, projects that offset impacts to Kitsap ecosystems will be increasingly necessary. It’s important to acknowledge that some previous environmental efforts have fallen short and that as Kitsap continues to grow and evolve a more holistic and ecologically responsible approach is required.
Waterman Mitigation Partners (WMP) is a team of professionals from the fields of environmental science, wetland biology, land surveying, ecology, restoration, preservation, construction, and landscaping. WMP has a big vision for the restoration and enhancement of Kitsap’s most precious and vulnerable aquatic systems.
Take Ross Creek, for example – a salmon-bearing creek with its estuary on the shores of Sinclair Inlet and its headwaters above HWY 16 in McCormick Woods. The creek funnels into an aging and inadequate culvert as it enters Puget Sound. And a result recent returning salmon numbers are at crisis level. This is a watershed that should be supporting thousands of spawning fish, not dozens. Proposed work on Ross Creek includes the re-establishment of the natural estuary by decommissioning the buildings on site and removing the fill that sits upon one-third of the estuary. A hundred years of dumpsites will be cleaned and removed as will any toxic materials left over from logging operations of the 19th and 20th centuries. The landscape will be cleared of invasive species and revegetated with native plants. Further upstream there are plans to remove a collapsing bridge and a defunct culvert that block fish passage.
The Waterman Mitigation Partners team plans to not only restore, enhance, and preserve vital aquatic habitats in and around Kitsap like Ross Creek, they also plan to accomplish this by using a watershed-scale approach to restoration, which has never been attempted on the Kitsap Peninsula.
Ross Creek is one of dozens of potential sites on the Great Peninsula that Waterman has identified for large scale restoration, preservation, and enhancement in the coming years.