CORRECTED: Salt marsh, habitat restored on Tarboo Bay
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Keith Lazelle Nature Photography
In a flurry of wood chips, Doug Reeves with Reeves Excavating and Land Clearing, with Peter Bahls, director of the Northwest Watershed Institute overseeing, restores salt marsh and potential fish habitat that had been buried by a bulkhead for 40 years.
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Keith Lazelle Nature Photography
After removal of bulkhead and fill, a hill on Tarboo Bay’s shoreline is back to its natural slope with driftwood logs at the toe and the high tide covering new tidelands and fish habitat.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: The headquarters of Chinook Engineering has been corrected.

A portion of the shoreline of Tarboo Bay in eastern Jefferson County was restored to natural conditions last week by removing a residential development that had built on top of a salt marsh in the 1970s.

Peter Bahls, Northwest Watershed Institute's executive director, said a bulkhead, fill dirt, house and septic system were removed from a portion of the shoreline property, with work finished Sept. 10.

He said it is ready to be planted with native vegetation this winter.

The narrow property is only 1.5 acres but stretches nearly a quarter-mile along the northeast edge of Tarboo Bay, with most of the salt marsh and forested shoreline still intact.

The watershed institute, a nonprofit conservation organization based in Port Townsend, bought the property for $315,000 in May.

Grant funding for the purchase came from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife's Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Program, which is administered by the state Department of Ecology.

Restrictive deeds now recorded for the property protect it in perpetuity as coastal habitat, Bahls said.

Doug Reeves, owner of Reeves Excavating and Land Clearing Inc. of Quilcene, was hired to remove a 150-foot-long bulkhead made of pilings set in the bay, as well as more than 700 cubic yards — 70 truckloads — of backfill.

The work was based on a design prepared by Chinook Engineering of Coupeville on Whidbey Island.

Reeves also removed a house and septic system perched along the shoreline, Bahls said.

Reshaped salt marsh

Using the excavator, he reshaped the original salt marsh elevation and slopes to close to natural conditions.

“Our job was made easier because we found the original dark topsoil layer buried under the fill dirt and simply follow that back,” Reeves said.

“After the bulkhead and fill dirt was removed, it was wonderful to see the tide come in again where it had been blocked for many decades,” Bahls said.

“I expect that the salt marsh grasses will regrow in the new exposed tide flats fairly rapidly.”

Tarboo Bay is an important nursery for young salmon, including Hood Canal summer chum and chinook, both listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, Bahls said.

“The salmon and other fish come in on the high tides to feed in the productive mud flats and salt marsh of the bay,” he said.

The project is one of several the watershed institute and other conservation groups such as the Jefferson Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy have completed in recent years within the boundaries of the Dabob Bay Natural Area, a 6,287-acre area identified by the state Department of Natural Resources as a priority for conservation, Bahls said.

The watershed institute has been working with more than 40 organizations and landowners since 2001 to protect and restore the Tarboo watershed, including the bay, he added.

Last modified: September 22. 2014 10:12PM
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