Scientific Experts Briefing. Last week (Tuesday 3/11/08) there was a very informative briefing at the Norm Dicks Center. We brought a small video camera and the results were good so we are working on formatting and hopefully making DVD’s available, or possibly putting on our website, illaheecommunity.com. More information to follow on the meeting and the results.
The Kitsap Sun covered the meeting with a report on 3/13/08.
3/18/08 Sale of Tax Title Strips. This is an ongoing item that is currently scheduled for sale on 3/18/08 unless someone intervenes. We reported some time ago (2/2/08) that the public was not given an opportunity to speak regarding these properties as was required by county directives. Members of the community have been in contact with Public Works and the Treasures Office. The response from the county has been interesting and up to the point of this writing, the properties are still on the list for sale at 11 a.m. in the lobby of the County Administration Building.
Illahee Community Plan Meetings. The meetings are held every other Monday through June 2, 2008 and are facilitated by Kitsap County. The second meeting is tonight, Monday 3/17/08 from 6-8 pm at the KUUF Church on Perry Avenue. Illahee residents are encouraged to come and be part of the group.
Gilberton Creek Culvert Replacement. We have requested a public meeting of the Gilberton Creek washout to discuss the county’s plan to put in a 10 foot diameter culvert. We will report back when we hear more. We have attached an email from John Sledd, who lives at the mouth of Gilberton Creek which provides much additional information on the creek.
Sorry to be slow getting back to you. I really appreciate your interest in the aftermath of the culvert blow-out and flash flood in December that took out Illahee Road and nearly half a mile of stream. That stream and the lagoon at its mouth were a big part of the reason we bought our place twenty years ago. It hurts to see it trashed, and you can imagine what our neighbors the Grahns feel like — they’ve had most of this neck of Gilberton in their family since the late 1800’s.
Based on what I’ve learned in my job (I’m an attorney and I’ve done a fair amount of fish habitat-related work), Mr. Bear’s explanation of why a fish-passable culvert is needed is correct. The State relies on physical characteristics for its initial determination of fish-bearing status when enforcing the Hydraulics Code, which requires permits and protection of fish life for any in-water work in fish habitat. There are also state fish passage laws — they are actually the oldest laws in Washington, dating back to the Oregon Territory Organic Act of 1849 — which prohibit the building of culverts that are not fish passable. As I said when we spoke on the phone the other night there is finally some effort to comply with those laws.
In this case the fish-bearing determination based on physical criteria is confirmed by history. Pete and Karl Grahn fished for cutthroat in that creek as kids and the Phifers, who had our place from the early 60’s until 1989, still saw cutts when they owned it. The trout probably would have been up past the Road originally. I never saw salmon up that far , but I have seen coho adults and salmonid fry lower down. If the channel were in better shape there could be juvenile coho up to or past the road. They use a lot of small and even seasonal streams, and I had one biologist tell me that they’d spawn in our kitchen sinks if we all made our drain pipes a bit fatter. Probably a slight exaggeration. There may have been chum in there originally, too. They head for shallow saltwater as soon as they hatch , so they don’t need much summer flow. The “pocket estuary” at the creek mouth here is pretty prime habitat for juvenile chum , too — or it was before December filled it with mud and broken trees. We tend not to think of these small creeks as salmon streams, but that’s partly because we’ve beaten them up so bad the fish are gone. To me, the fact that we’ve already wiped out the runs in a stream is a pretty lame excuse for allowing the degradation to continue.
I’d be interested to see the cost estimates for the different culvert and bridge options, but I’d be surprised if the cost of a fish-passable pipe on Illahee Road is a lot more than sticking another little 18 inch straw through the road and hoping it never rains hard again. The biggest costs in fish passage projects are usually not in the pipe, but in removing and rebuilding the road prism. The flood did the removing here, and made certain that the rebuilding costs will be high no matter what option the county chose.
Of course, as you suggested when you called, a fish-friendly culvert makes no sense if the creek channel downstream stays silted up and braided like it is after the flood — the fish would need legs and breathing apparatus to anywhere. It is certainly feasible to rebuild the channel, and putting all those downed logs from the flood into the creekbed for habitat would be a lot easier than hauling them out of the ravine. Based on my research, I think there are good arguments why the County and possibly some of the upstream developers are legally required to either restore the creek, lagoon and beach or pay affected landowners enough to restore it. In any case it’s clear that if it wasn’t for Illahee Road and its dinky old culvert, that flash flood would never have happened, and we’d still own a creek in a forest and a beach, rather than a big, naked gravel bar and a stinking mudflat full of dead clams. It just does not seem fair to trash folks’ property that way and then walk off with a shrug.
Commissioner Brown and the Public Works engineers were good enough to come down and see the mess for themselves, and they expressed some sympathy, but I haven’t seen concrete evidence yet that the County plans to do more than lug out a few chunks of pipe and asphalt. We wouldn’t even have known the County plans to do that much if we hadn’t learned about it through you.
My wife (Elaine Thomas) and I and the Grahns gave Commissioner Brown a consistent message when we met with him last month. The County has the opportunity here to do right by the landowners, by the salmon, and by the community. With some coordinated effort and community support we could get funds to restore the beach, estuary and creek, or better yet to take advantage of the Grahn’s interest to acquire the ravine and lagoon for the public. The Greater Peninsula Conservancy already owns a couple of acres between our place and Illahee Road. There is a chance to add to that and to preserve a nice public greenbelt and fish and wildlife corridor as the neighborhood grows, and a place with a lot of Native and early non-Native history as well. I’m probably a nut for thinking like this, but crazier things have been done.
You folks in Illahee have the reputation for community organization and caring about your neighborhood — what do you think?
Sorry to be so wordy but this situation gets me riled up. I hope we can get a meeting together and kick some of this around.
I copied this to the folks on your cc list whom I know, and to the Grahns, and I sent a pretty similar email to Roy Barton. You are free to share this with whomever you please.
Best and thanks again, John Sledd
Additional Items? If you have additional items you would like us to report on, please let us know.