River Watch-Thomas Creek

by: Posted on: November 14, 2010

By Christine Woodward, Director of Natural Resources, Samish Indian Nation

Thomas Creek is a tributary to the Samish River in Skagit County WA. It is a salmon bearing stream but is severally impacted by invasive plants and a lack of shade in many places where it flows through agricultural lands. In 2004, 47 acres of agricultural land, along with 1,500 feet of Thomas Creek was donated to the Samish Tribe.  The Tribe leases all but 10 acres of the property to a local dairy farmer for growing feed for his cattle.  The other 10 acres of this property along Thomas Creek was removed from agricultural production and fenced off.

The Samish Tribe and Skagit River Systems Cooperative (SRSC), both sharing a mutual interest to restore salmon populations in the basin partnered to restore the creek. In addition, their project built upon the Skagit Drainage and Fish Initiative Drainage Maintenance Agreement made in May 2006 between the Drainage and Irrigation District #14 and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

These groups worked cooperatively to improve habitat for about 7 of the 10 acres the Samish tribe set aside for Thomas Creek.  They removed invasive Himalayan Blackberries and Reed Canary Grass, improved flood storage, provided side channel opportunities for fish and planted native vegetation to control invasive plants and provide shade.  The engineering and construction done by SRSC on the creek was funded by a Pioneers in Conservation Fund grant. This project removed approximately 24,000 square feet of invasive vegetation, 5,600 cubic yards of material and modified 1,300 linear feet of the channel. This project created main and blind channels for flood storage and fish habitat, added 25 pieces of large woody debris and planted 1,650 native plants.

Implementing these types of agreements through the Drainage and Fish Initiative illuminates a mutually beneficial relationship between salmon and agricultural interests.

The Tribe enrolled the last 3.7 acres in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), which is administered by USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). Skagit Conservation District, with CREP, pays landowners to establish buffers of native trees and shrubs along fish bearing streams and rivers. Land enrolled in CREP is removed from production and grazing under 10 to 15-year rental contracts. In return, landowners receive annual rental payment. This area was fenced and planted with 4,869 native trees and shrubs.

The Samish Tribe is very proud to share this with so many and hope that this type of work can continue throughout the watershed. We cannot do this type of work alone. It takes commitment on many paths to restore, preserve and enhance our systems.

This project culminates the power of partnerships in restoring impacted systems while preserving agricultural lands and teaching the community to work together for common goals.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.