Shelton Harbor Restoration

We are pleased to announce the kickoff of a project designed to restore the Goldsborough and Shelton Creek estuaries in Shelton Harbor. When complete the project area and other high quality habitat in the harbor will be placed into permanent protection.

Existing conditions.

Shelton Harbor existing conditions.

Conceptual drawing showing completed project.

Conceptual design for the completed project.

The overall project involves-

Landowners: Simpson Lumber, Sierra Pacific Industries and the Port of Shelton.

Partners: South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group, Mason Conservation District, Capitol Land Trust and the Squaxin Island Tribe.

Funding obtained to date has been provided by the Washington Department of Ecology National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program (information here) and the Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB, information here). Significantly, all of the Lead Entities present in South Puget Sound contributed to the project enabling the SRFB to increase the amount of money available.

The project is large in scope and when complete will:

  • remove 811 creosote pilings
  • remove 1/2 mile of armored shoreline
  • remove 1/4 mile of inter-tidal dikes
  • restore 47 acres of saltmarsh
  • restore 1/2 mile of shoreline riparian
  • conserve 51 acres of tidelands and over 14 acres of riparian upland

The partners are currently in the permitting phase and anticipate construction to begin in the summer of 2017. To keep informed of the project status we have created a website Check in regularly for updates.


Squaxin Island Tribe, land trust, turning golf course into habitat

Bayshore on Oakland Bay. Photo by the state Department of Ecology.

Bayshore on Oakland Bay. Photo by the state Department of Ecology.

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.”

Working together to make sure shellfish stay safe to harvest

The Squaxin Island Tribe and Mason County are forming a new partnership to protect one of the most productive shellfish growing areas in the world. The new working relationship will manage an enhanced Pollution Identification and Correction (PIC) program, as part of the state’s recently announced Shellfish Initiative.

“The enhanced program will bring a new emphasis to making sure cleaned up areas stay clean,” said John Konovsky, environmental program manager for the tribe. The tribe will monitor water quality after corrective actions are taken to make sure they’re working and continue to work. Corrective actions may be implemented through voluntary compliance or, as necessary, enforcement against polluters who fail to cooperate.

“We’re going to work with landowners to make sure they clean up pollution, and we’re going to keep on going back to trouble spots to make sure they stay clean,” Konovsky said.

The waters of Oakland Bay and the rest of South Sound are much more sensitive to pollution than the remainder of Puget Sound. “Our community must be more diligent than most in keeping waste out of the water if we are to continue to have the opportunity to harvest shellfish,” said Andy Whitener, natural resources manager for the tribe.

The shorelines of Mason County are among the most productive shellfish growing areas in the world. For example, 40 percent of the country’s manila clam production is from Oakland Bay.

Shellfish are also a large part of the tribe’s culture and economy. More than 20 percent of Squaxin Island tribal members make part or all of their income from harvesting shellfish.

“The Squaxin Island Tribe has always had natural resources, and especially shellfish, at the center of our economic and cultural way of life,” Whitener said. “Pollution that prevents us from being able to harvest is a direct threat to our treaty-reserved rights to shellfish.”

The Mason County Commissioners and the Squaxin Island Tribal Council will sign the inter-local agreement at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29th at the Squaxin Museum in Kamilche. All are invited to attend.


For more information, contact: John Konovsky, environmental program manager, Squaxin Island Tribe, (360) 432-3804. Emmett O’Connell, information officer, (360) 528-4325,

Ancient Clam Gardens and Deepwater Sand Lance Habitat

Ancient clam gardens and deepwater sand lance habitats are just two of the many varied topics that were interesting at the biennial Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference held in Vancouver British Columbia this October. 

 Researchers fromSimonFraserUniversitylooked at the effectiveness of ancient shellfish gardens created onQuadraIslandinBritish Columbia.  In these gardens, first nations’ peoples cleared rocks and small boulders down to the low ends of beaches to construct a sill.  These cleared areas filled in with smaller sized sediment particles and created areas of higher quality clam habitat. The sill wall also acted to deter some predators and was thought to increase larval retention.  When coupled with the first nations’ husbandry practices of removing predators to increase survival and removing competitors to increase growth they achieved clam aquaculture in a form that is not much different from what is practiced today.

 Another interesting presentation was of a study using acoustic multibeam ecosounder data, seafloor video, and sediment samples to identify and sample subtidal habitat in the San Juan Channel of the Pacific sand lance.  The sand lance is known to utilize near shore sandy substrates for burrowing emerging in daylight hours to forage in open water.  Sandy upper intertidal beaches are used by adults for spawning and egg deposition.  With this work, the natural history of the Pacific sand lance in its subtidal habitat has been greatly expanded.  A predictive model that uses seafloor characteristics of sediment wave fields was developed to locate potential subtidal sand lance habitats.  Densities of sand lance captured in this study were much higher than what has been reported intertidally, averaging 84 fish/m2 rather than only 5 fish/m2.  What I found the most intriguing was the collection of a single sand lance egg found in one of 59 samples.  This could indicate a low density late season subtidal spawning area that could be considered a “critical” habitat or just be an anomaly.

 Overall the conference presented a wide variety of interesting topics and studies about theSalishSea, its inhabitants, and how they interact with each other.  The Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference was an excellent opportunity to hear from and collaborate with researchers, policy makers, and natural resource managers.


Excess Nutrients increase Ocean Acidification

Nutrient loading and its effects on the health of the Salish Sea was a topic covered from a variety of perspectives at the recent Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, BC.  The most common threat from elevated nutrients is hypoxia, or dangerously low levels of dissolved oxygen as is found at times in Hood Canal.  But another threat is emerging and was discussed at the conference.  Excess nitrogen can add to the decrease in Salish Sea pH we are experiencing from climate change and which is threatening the shellfish industry.

Excess nitrogen in the marine environment fuels algae growth.  When the algae dies and is decomposed by microbial action, CO2 is produced–the more algae, the more CO2.  This CO2 from microbial respiration has the same effect as atmospheric CO2–it lowers pH.  Thus CO2 in marine waters has two sources–the atmosphere and microbial respiration.   And, as anthropogenic sources of nutrients increase algae growth, acidification and all its damaging consequences are accelerating.

What is most alarming is that the combination of the two sources of CO2  (atmosphere and respiration) seems to have more than an additive effect–there is some sort of synergy that lowers pH beyond what would be expected from the sum of the predictions for each of the two sources when modeled alone.  In the context of the relatively limited water circulation found in the Salish Sea and especially in South Sound where nutrients tend to linger for long periods of time, this emerging science increases the urgency to control or treat all sources of excess nutrients to help compensate for the effects of climate change.

Phil Anderson Chosen As Leader of WDFW

From Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Website:

Anderson Good Choice to lead WDFW

The treaty tribes of western Washington look forward to continuing to work with Phil Anderson as director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Anderson was named the department’s permanent director Saturday by the nine-member commission….(read more at NWIFC website).