By Jeff Switzer, Herald Writer
LAKE STEVENS — The air is sweeter along Lundeen Creek these days as thousands of plants take root in one of Snohomish County’s most distinctive restoration projects.
“It’s kind of refreshing out here, better than the chlorine air I usually breathe,” said 16-year-old Nathan Schaffer of Marysville.
Schaffer joined his Mighty Marlins swim team last weekend to help put in hundreds of new plants along the creek’s route.
Supporters celebrated substantial completion of the nearly $750,000 restoration project, paid for by the county and the city of Lake Stevens.
County crews carved 1,300 feet of new stream channel and restored another 1,100 feet of the creek. Plans call for planting more than 21,000 trees, shrubs and marshy wetland plants along the creek’s route, and volunteer crews are about halfway done.
The creek flows downhill into Lake Stevens and is home to spawning kokanee salmon.
The fish didn’t used to rate very high. During the past 100 years, the creek was diverted into a ditch and dredged, and the fish runs were severely depleted, county project manager Craig Garric said.
Swimming against high water caused by two heavy rainstorms last year, hundreds of spawning kokanee quickly reclaimed the restored habitat, Garric said.
Digging 1,300 feet of new stream channel was a unique move, county public works supervisor John Engel said. More often, county crews tweak or restore existing stream routes to improve habitat, he said.
Volunteer crews plan to continue to dig in even more native plants along the route in coming months and years. Work is expected to be completed in 2009.
Lundeen Creek now meanders naturally through a greenbelt 100 feet wide and is lined by acres of trees and bushes meant to shade the water and cool it for spawning salmon and their eggs.
The creek is no longer the straight-shot ditch that carried rising floodwater to the doorsteps of nearby houses for years.
A dozen nearby property owners agreed to the county’s plans to better steer rising floodwaters and restore fish habitat, Garric said.
“How the pieces fit together is what makes the project shine,” Garric said.
Reporter Jeff Switzer: 425-339-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.