The Capital Land Trust and the Squaxin Island Tribe are working to bring back salmon habitat and protect an important shellfish growing area by restoring a former golf course on Oakland Bay. The land trust recently purchased the 74-acre Bayshore Golf Course, which includes the mouth of Johns Creek and over a thousand feet of Oakland Bay shoreline.
The tribe and the land trust will remove a 1,400 foot dike, restoring the Johns Creek estuary and important marine shoreline. “Taking the dike out will provide salmon with additional acres of saltwater marsh to use as they migrate out to the ocean,” said Jeff Dickison, assistant natural resources director for the tribe..
Eventually, the golf course fairways will also be replanted with native vegetation, restoring a streamside forest that helps provide habitat to salmon.
Preventing development around the bay also protects the most productive shellfish growing area in the state.
The former golf course sits on a peninsula jutting into Oakland Bay that is made up of mostly gravelly glacial outwash. “If the golf course had been sold to developers, the porous nature of the gravel underneath the golf course couldn’t have protected shellfish beds from being polluted by septic tanks,” Dickison said.
The mouth of Johns Creek was the site of one of the largest longhouses and Squaxin villages. “We have always thought of this place as special,” said Andy Whitener, natural resources director for the tribe. “Our people lived there for thousands of years, subsisting on the fish, shellfish and wildlife that was always available.”
The state Department of Ecology also helped the land trust buy the surface water rights associated with the golf course. “Johns Creek doesn’t have enough water to support a weak run of summer chum,” said Scott Stelzner, salmon biologist for the tribe. “By securing this water right, we can balance against increased water appropriations throughout the Johns Creek watershed.
The restoration of the old golf course is part of a larger effort to protect and restore Oakland Bay. The tribe, the land trust and other local partners have protected hundreds of acres of habitat and improved water quality throughout the bay.
“It is important to make sure we protect places like Oakland Bay, before they turn the corner and can’t be saved,” Dickison said. Currently, Oakland Bay is relatively undeveloped, but that could easily change in the next few years.
“The decline of salmon and shellfish directly impacts our culture, economy and our treaty reserved rights,” Whitener said. “Making sure Oakland Bay is healthy is one of the most important things we can do to protect our way of life.”