Terrell Creek salmon recovery efforts bearing fruit
By Elaina Steele-Friedlob
In the past year, our Birch Bay community has made significant strides in our efforts to restore Terrell Creek as a viable salmon habitat. The success is a direct result of our community’s hard work and active cooperation with a variety of expert, corporate and government partners.
The Chums of Terrell Creek, Birch Bay citizens and friends supporting this effort, worked closely with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) to move the project forward on several fronts.
In the fall and spring, committed volunteers gathered in rainy, muddy conditions to plant over 1,500 trees and shrubs along the creek near Jackson Road. These growing trees will eventually provide shade to both suppress the invasive canarygrass and keep the water safely cool for fish during the summer. Contributions from local businesses have provided large woody debris and mulch to further enhance the riparian area that will contribute to the ongoing health of the creek.
During the fall our community volunteers participated in fish counts to provide NSEA with data on the population of fish already returning to the stream to spawn. Several Coho (Silver) spawners were sighted far upstream – an optimistic finding this early in the restoration.
In February volunteers monitored the first Remote Site Salmon Incubator (RSI) in Terrell Creek which nurtured 50,000 fertilized chum salmon eggs. The eggs hatched into young fish and swam downstream and out to sea in the spring. These fish will return to spawn in their new home creek within three to six years.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife manager of Lake Terrell, Tom Reed, has played a pivotal role in the restoration by allowing critical water releases from the dam at Lake Terrell. These releases have resulted in well-oxygenated water for successfully incubating the eggs in the RSI and in forming deep pools within the creek for several hundred Coho fry observed this summer.
In the spring of this year, volunteers monitored a smolt trap placed in the creek to determine the types of out-migrating fish. Encouragingly, Coho and other non-salmonid fish such as bass were observed, confirming previous sightings.
For the coming year, restoration activities will continue apace. The tree planting and work party was held on Saturday, October 22 along the Jackson Road reach. We had great weather and a good turnout to continue planting trees, shrubs and applying mulch to the area along Terrell Creek near Jackson Road. The trees and shrubs from previous plantings have almost doubled in size in some places and look healthy and vigorous.
The barbecue was fun and we got to rub elbows with volunteers from Western WA U and many different organizations that came to help our community as part of Make a Difference Day.
We will also conduct fish counts this winter and another salmon egg incubator will be installed. Volunteers will again play an essential role in monitoring the well being of the eggs until they are hatched and baby fish released into the creek. This coming spring there will also be another smolt trap and planting and work party along the banks of Terrell Creek. This effort will continue to be sustained by the Birch Bay community volunteers who comprise the Chums of Terrell Creek.
Throughout this multi-year effort, the Birch Bay Bible Community Church has also been a solid partner in the restoration effort. The Church has generously allowed the Chums and other volunteers to use its meeting rooms and its parking lot and restroom facilities during work parties.
In conclusion, the solid progress of this restoration effort on Terrell Creek is evidence of our continued evolution as a community that uses all of its assets – a community that works successfully to help itself and others.
Though we are making good progress, we continue to need your help in getting salmon back into Terrell Creek and look forward to your participation in a variety of these activities over the winter and spring. We can’t do it without you!
Also please let your friends and neighbors know about helping NSEA and the Chums bring salmon back to Terrell Creek. Call Elie at 371-3441 or Rachel Vasak at 715-0283.