CAMANO ISLAND — After more than 15 years of planning, Barbara Brock finally saw the installation of a set of fish-friendly culverts along Kristoferson Creek on the east side of Camano Island. The project opened up about 1.6 miles of critical habitat for several species of salmon.
“It’s a real sense of satisfaction,” Brock said, while surveying the new passageways. “Now we just need the fish.”
It was a lengthy process, and persistence was helpful, she said.
Kristoferson Creek, a small coastal stream, begins at Kristoferson Lake and flows under East Camano Drive eventually reaching Triangle Cove, a pocket estuary. These habitats provide refugee for young salmon where they spend months growing before heading out to the ocean.
While neither culvert on Kristoferson Creek was a complete barrier, both had obstacles for fish. A partial blockage was identified as an issue in 2000, according to Dawn Pucci, a recovery coordinator for Island County.
However, other culverts took precedent until this fall. A task force, which combines local residents and scientists, helps choose which are replaced on the island.
These projects need both the science and local buy-in to succeed, said Brock, who has been part of the group for years.
The work hit a few rough spots, including during the recession when funding was tight.
Pucci credits local citizens, such as Brock, for both initiating the project and continuing to push for the new crossings.
The residents end up becoming advocates and ambassadors for the fish and their habitat, she said.
“They bring back perspectives scientists might not think of,” she said.
Last month crews began removing the old pipes, digging wider and deeper passages. The Snohomish Conservation District partnered with Island County Public Works.
Now that access has been improved, Pucci said adult chum, coho and cutthroat could start using the creek as soon as this fall.
“In the Elwha River when they took the dams out within months they had fish,” Pucci said.
Long retired, Brock said working on restoration and environmental issues on Camano Island ranks as her most fun job.
“We ruined things one slice at a time,” she said, “so we need to put things back together one slice at a time.”
Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; email@example.com; Twitter: @lizzgior.