Chums of Terrell Creek, NSEA focus on restoration

Published on Thu, Aug 28, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Chums of Terrell Creek, NSEA focus on restoration

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

Two environmental groups are making significant headway in the restoration of Birch Bay�s Terrell Creek, a watershed that is suffering the invasion of reed canarygrass, a plant species causing fish passage and water quality problems.

The recently formed Chums of Terrell Creek, a community-based environmental group, is working in conjunction with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA), to restore Terrell Creek�s habitat for chum and coho salmon.

Terrell Creek was once home to stable runs of chum and coho salmon during the 1970s; however, runs significantly decreased over the years. The invasive canarygrass slows water flow, raises water temperature and lowers oxygen levels during critical spawning periods, and acts as a physical barrier, choking the creek�s channel. Because of this, salmon are unable to pass Jackson Road, an area of the creek, to spawn.

Rachel Deryckx, of the NSEA, discussed the stream�s habitat at a recent meeting in Birch Bay. �The grass forms a mat over the stream and dams up the water,� Deryckx said, adding the water temperature increases and loses oxygen.

The NSEA and Chums of Terrell Creek are now working together to remove canarygrass, and then begin active reintroduction of salmon via eggbox. It is hoped the removal work can begin this fall, followed by egg introduction during the winter of 2004.

Several different studies have concluded that there are several critical location priorities in the Terrell Creek area. NSEA is also working with Lake Terrell on the timing and release of more water, something that is being planned for next summer.

NSEA cares for five creeks: Padden Creek, Whatcom Creek and Squalicum Creek in Bellingham, Shell Creek in Ferndale and Terrell Creek in Birch Bay. Deryckx said that in the county-wide review Terrell Creek is not a high priority because spring chinook is not part of the creek�s habitat, as in other creeks in the north and south forks of the Nooksack and native tribes don�t play much of a role in Terrell, like they do in others.

However, NSEA recently received a National Fish and Wildlife grant, the bulk of which goes to this watershed and covers time and materials. She believes that Terrell Creek is at the top of that list because of community involvement.

�This group has been more involved and will likely continue to be involved more than any other stream stewards group,� Deryckx said. �This creek has some of the highest level of community interest and we believe that will make a big difference.�

Deryckx said Terrell Creek will definitely get some help and �it�s definitely capable with some restoration.�

Plans are in the works to establish a time for a work party for Chums of Terrell Creek, NSEA and volunteers to work together in restoration. Deryckx said a work party should generally be held in September or the beginning of October.

�We have the trees and we have the tools,� Deryckx said. �We definitely need a lot of help planting the trees.�

She said NSEA is in the process of establishing whether the work will be done this fall or next year. �We�re trying to find out if we can do the work this fall or next fall,� Deryckx said. �I feel like a lot of things are coming together in the Terrell Creek watershed.�

A section of Terrell Creek located on BP property will also be restored, but through BP�s own monetary efforts. �This is a big thing and they will pay for all of their restoration in the portion of the stream that they own,� Deryckx said.

The other areas need to be paid for, and that is the goal of Chums of Terrell Creek, lead by Elie Steele-Friedlob.

�It�s been such a neat experience going through this with the community,� Steele-Friedlob said. �There has been so much positive feedback from the community. I am so proud of it. It�s just incredible that we�ve been able to do in such a short time.�

The group is trying to raise $2,000. �We have $1,500 and we actually have more that has been promised,� Steele-Friedlob said.

Terrell Creek restoration T-shirts (bearing the image of a smiling chum) have been printed, and are available for $15 each, all proceeds benefiting the creek. Signs will also be posted next to the creek, outlining information about its habitat and how the community can help.

�It�s the work of the community and volunteers that will keep Terrell Creek in everyone�s consciousness,� Steele-Friedlob said. �I�m thinking these will be long-term relationships that will keep the support going for years. And if we fall down, we�ll get back up, and keep pushing forward. It means so much to see the fish.�

For further information, call Elie Steele-Friedlob at 371-3441 or email Eliana.steele-friedlob@medstat.com. Also visit online at www.smartgrowthbirchbay.org for other local environmental issues.

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