POULSBO — The south fork of Dogfish Creek usually gurgles along on its way to the main stem on Bond Road and then to the estuary and Liberty Bay.
But on a very rainy Dec. 19, the creek was a torrent, overwhelming the 24-inch diameter culvert on 8th Avenue, flooding the street, and overflowing onto neighboring properties.
“We’ve picked salmon out of that oil separator over there and put them back in the creek — spawning salmon,” Assistant Public Works Director Keith Svarthumle said of earlier overflows. “They’ll pop right out of the creek and they’ll be swimming across this parking lot. Big ones too.”
It’s long been like this, ever since the built environment encroached on this section of Dogfish Creek watershed. But soon, a long-planned restoration will get underway.
Public Works Superintendent Mike Lund said two city-owned houses along the south fork of Dogfish Creek will be removed in January. One of those houses, on 8th Avenue next door to Coffee Oasis, was moved to that site possibly in the 1950s, and over the years the property owner and Public Works Department found themselves working to protect the home from heavy seasonal flows. The city bought the site for $1 in March 2015 from the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation.
Lund said it will take a week to remove the houses and backfill the sites.
Next, the city will restore the stream channel, flood plain, and riparian buffer between 8th Avenue and Centennial Park, thanks in part to a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program. That work is expected to be completed in 2018. Holly and English ivy will be removed from the Centennial Park portion of the creek. A nearby detention pond will be converted to a wetland that will treat stormwater runoff.
While that work is underway, city engineers will be working out how best to replace the 24-inch culvert — identified as the most problematic of the 19 culverts on Dogfish Creek — with a 12-foot-wide concrete box culvert.
All told, the restoration of the south fork of Dogfish Creek will cost $1.3 million — $937,500 from the state, $380,644 in city funds. The project is “currently the highest ranked stormwater-related habitat restoration project in Kitsap County under the Puget Sound Partnership Near-Term Action Plan,” according to the city’s restoration project plan. The Puget Sound Partnership is the state agency leading the region’s collective effort to restore and protect Puget Sound. The Puget Sound Partnership developed the near-term action plan as a regional tool to guide prioritization of project funding.
‘CHANGING PEOPLE’S PERCEPTIONS’
The south fork of Dogfish Creek is important because it provides habitat for numerous species, among them coho salmon.
The south fork originates at a spring in Wilderness Park on Caldart Avenue, at an elevation of 272 feet, and flows 2.1 miles before entering the main stem of Dogfish Creek on Bond Road, at the confluence of the east and west forks.
The south fork carries water draining from 956 acres — including runoff from neighborhoods, commercial area, and Highway 305. Tests have shown Dogfish Creek water to contain such pollutants from automobiles, fertilizers, pet waste, sewer leaks, illicit discharges, and street refuse.
The south fork is a piece in the larger puzzle of the region’s environmental health. A healthy south fork contributes to a healthier Dogfish Creek, which contributes to a healthier Liberty Bay, which contributes to a healthier Puget Sound. A healthier marine environment means healthier salmon, which means healthier species — including humans — that depend on salmon.
Mayor Becky Erickson, a long-time advocate for restoration of Dogfish Creek, said the restoration is “the environmentally correct thing to do.” Andrzej Kasiniak, the City of Poulsbo’s engineering director, said he believes Dogfish Creek can help residents see their community through a different lens.
He described an urban-nature encounter he had while jogging in Renton, population 100,000. He stopped on a bridge and looked down to the water below. Here, in Washington’s eighth most-populous city, “Salmon were crowded under me. It was a new experience for me.” He said of Dogfish Creek, “This habitat restoration project will change people’s perception” about where they live.
— Richard Walker is managing editor of Kitsap News Group. Contact him at email@example.com.