Nearly a decade after the significant restoration of the Jimmycomelately Creek, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe has watched it thrive with a chum salmon population that once was nearly extinct.
“The tribe bought the land around Jimmycomelately Creek and restored it back to its natural migrating path, the way a river – or in this case, a creek – breathes,” said Ron Allen, Jamestown tribal chairman. “We had threatened species, coho and chum, but now they’re coming back in strong numbers. So we’re doing the right thing. But it wasn’t just us. Fish and Wildlife was involved, the local community was involved and the state was involved. So it took a village of interested parties to make it work – and we made it work.”
The creek is important to the tribe because it was a traditional hunting, fishing, shellfishing and gathering area for thousands of years. The tribe relied upon the chum salmon that used to choke the creek every summer, as well as coho salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout.
In the early 1900s, farmers, builders and loggers started working the land for agriculture, development and logging. All that work eventually led to a straightened stream with a decimated salmon population and a flood-prone highway.
The final straw was when a massive rainstorm in 1996 flooded the creek, Old Blyn Highway and Highway 101 near the tribal center. Discussions started quickly about how to correct the chronic flooding and lack of salmon habitat. In 1999, Hood Canal summer chum salmon was listed as “threatened” on the federal Endangered Species Act list. Only seven chum returned to spawn that year.
It took eight years to restore “The Jimmy,” which included purchasing 25 acres of land, removing two crumbling railroad bridges and remnants of an old logging yard at the mouth of the creek, and restoring the estuary.
To assist in the planning, monitoring and implementation of the restoration effort, EPA provided more than $650,000 in grant funding between 2001 and 2005. The tribe leveraged more than $6 million from partners to complete the restoration.
Since 2004, because of the improved habitat and with the help of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s summer chum salmon recovery project, chum have returned to the creek by the thousands.
The tribe also has been monitoring the creek for improved water quality and flow, increased habitat for salmon, eelgrass recovery, creek bank stabilization, increased shellfish harvest opportunities, and more tidal and estuarine channels for salmon.
In the last few years, the tribe also has augmented its developing wetland program by devoting its Clean Water Act section 106 and 319 funds, as well as funds leveraged from the state of Washington and other federal agencies, to restoration implementation.