Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Stories about Getting to Clean Water: Why does Hansen Creek look like Normandy Beach?

By Diane Dent, Water Quality Stories Lead, Water Quality Program

Passersby on State Highway 20 above Sedro-Woolley wondered, “What are those acres and acres of jutting posts? Why does it look so much like Normandy Beach in World War II?” As it turns out it was “D-Day” for stream habitat degradation.

The problem

The Hansen Creek project area was originally a forested alluvial fan and wetland. It was cleared and used for farming as early as the 1940s. The site is currently used as a Skagit County park. Over time, this reach of Hansen Creek became a levied, straightened channel maintained by routine dredging. Hansen Creek would flow through the constricted channel and dump tons of sediment onto farms below, both clogging the creek and causing flooding to downstream farmers. Dredging harmed the stream environment and the salmon living in the creek. Five different species of anadromous salmon (fish that spend time in both fresh and sea waters) have been observed in the creek, including two Endangered Species Act species—Chinook and steelhead.

Project highlights

This project re-established natural landscape processes in the Hansen Creek basin. It restored over 140 acres and 17,000 lineal feet of stream, riparian, and floodplain habitat. The project enhanced in-stream habitat complexity, restored channel connection with the floodplain, and developed forested riparian floodplain and flow channels. Side channels provide rearing, foraging, and migration habitat for fish. This project is unique in the size of the floodplain restoration. A project site of this size changes the dynamic of restoration needs along the entire stream. Now, several years after establishing the log “beachhead” on the Hansen Creek floodplain on “D-Day” in July 2009, salmon and water quality “Allies” can celebrate the victory of improved stream channel, less sediment transport below Highway 20, and greatly improved salmon habitat.

Telling our success stories

Water quality success stories provide a wealth of information associated with novel project designs, funding ideas, and useful resource suggestions. Some are clear successes; others supply valuable lessons to help us grow in our understanding of water quality protection and restoration. Stories illustrate successes gained from cooperation among Washington’s citizens and organizations.

Read all of Ecology's water quality success stories, and check out our complete catalog of stories to date.

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