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Salmon Creek Estuary Restored After Years of Lumber Mill Impacts

NOAA's restoration of the Salmon Creek Estuary, found at the head of Discovery Bay, is one of the most important recent restoration projects in the greater Puget Sound area. Home to Endangered Species Act threatened chum salmon, as well as Chinook and steelhead salmon, much of this estuary has been uninhabitable for fish due to runoff from a lumber mill that started more than 50 years ago.

Sulfur and ammonia leach into the water from more than 22,000 cubic yards of wood fill, making it difficult for salmon and a number of other important species to live in the estuary.

Completed in October of 2008, NOAA and the North Olympic Salmon Coalition ensured that more than 38,000 cubic yards of gravel and five derelict lumber mill buildings were removed, along with the wood waste, to restore 2,600 feet of tidal channel and salt marsh.

Shorebirds, waterfowl, and shellfish are just a few of the species that are now returning since the estuary’s restoration. Bald and Golden eagles once again feed on salmon along the creeks and intertidal areas, and Roosevelt elk will soon graze on the grasses nearby.

The Salmon Creek Estuary will be a much healthier place for people, too. The restored site is a favorite place for local residents to enjoy wildlife. Some residents help with monitoring so that they might see the project continue long after its completion. In addition, a local farm used the wood waste for reuse as winter bedding for livestock and compost since the wood was not treated by the lumber mill during manufacturing.

Work began in the summer of 2008, but it took more than four years for NOAA's Restoration Center, the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, the FishAmerica Foundation, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to research, fund, and implement the project.