KINGSTON — An event 18 years in the making has finally come to fruition as Stillwaters Environmental Center celebrated it’s Estuary Liberation Day on June 9. The event featured live music, food, recognition of project partners and tours of the marsh with binocular viewings.
“It’s kind of amazing because it went on for so long,” Administrative Director of Stillwaters Environmental Center Naomi Maasberg said. “The construction from 2010 onwards became really intense.”
The celebration of the estuary comes after the long-awaited completion of two bridges in Kingston, the other being on South Kingston Road that was built in 2012. The completion of the West Kingston Bridge earlier this year had many benefits, including replacing culverts that enclosed Puget Sound tidal flow between Apple Tree Cove and the Carpenter Creek estuary, preventing fish migration out of Central and South Puget Sound. Having a 150-foot span bridge opens up the upper salt marsh and restores natural functioning of the estuary habitat, accessible to wildlife. The project also added 10 acres to the estuary.
“Salt marshes are the richest habitat in terms of producing food for wildlife,” Maasberg said. “To have that restricted and damaged by not having a decent flow of tidal water is just criminal because there’s not many salt marshes left.”
As part of an agreement with the Suquamish Tribe, the Navy provided nearly $3 million for the project as a portion of its mitigation for a maintenance pier at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The remainder $4.6 million was funded by Kitsap County Public Works road and sewer funds and Kitsap Public Utility District No. 1. The state legislature and the Army Corps of Engineers funded the South Kingston Bridge project.
With the completion of these two projects, Stillwaters intends to focus in the near future on research from its internship program. The Stillwaters internship program is continuing to grow, directing students from The University of Washington and Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment. Maasberg reiterated that they want to get the interns more involved in a research area and keep expanding the program in general.
— Tyler Shuey is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at tshuey@soundpublish ing.com.