The Thomas Creek restoration site following channel construction and planting.
The Thomas Creek restoration site following channel construction and planting.

The Thomas Creek Riverine Wetland Restoration Project aimed to improve habitat quality and quantity on a degraded reach of Thomas Creek, a tributary of the Samish River. Thomas Creek flows through agricultural land in western Skagit County, near Sedro-Woolley. The reach of Thomas Creek where this restoration project was implemented is steep-banked, infested with non-native vegetation, channelized, has degraded water quality, and is limited in value to wildlife and fish. Dikes on the north and south banks confine this reach. Large woody debris is nearly absent.

In addition to poor water quality and habitat conditions, the Thomas Creek hydrology can be problematic for salmon. The upper watershed is a combination of forestry, rural residential development, and subdivided residential development. Storm runoff is routed into ditches, which eventually feed into Thomas Creek. Due to stormwater routing and other watershed developments, Thomas Creek has a tendency to be very ‘flashy’ and experiences frequent short floods. In addition to flooding local agricultural fields, these short and sudden floods can disturb the juvenile coho and chum salmon that rear in Thomas Creek. This project aimed to provide off-channel refuge and rearing habitat, allowing rearing salmon to better survive Thomas Creek flooding.

The goals of the restoration project were to:
1) Expand the hydrologic footprint and flood storage capacity of Thomas Creek along a straightened and channelized reach.
2) Improve fish habitat quality and quantity within the project area.
3) Strengthen the working relationship between the fish community (WDFW, SRSC) and the agricultural community (Dike and Drainage District #14).

The Thomas Creek Riverine Wetland Restoration Project enhanced riparian and off-channel habitat for salmon while improving flood storage capabilities to benefit downstream farmland. The project was constructed in summer 2009. The project accomplished excavation of a 1.3-acre riparian wetland planted with wetland emergent native vegetation, shaping 560 feet of side-channel habitat through the riparian wetland, re-graded 1,300 feet of the left bank of Thomas Creek, installed native riparian vegetation in 6.9 acres along Thomas Creek, installed large woody debris elements, and controlled the invasive streamside vegetation that existed along the stream. These actions have contributed to accomplishing the project goals.

Project Status/Timeline
The Thomas Creek Riverine Wetland Restoration Project was implemented in summer 2009. Site revegetation was carried out winter 2009-2010.

Primary Project Contact
Nora Kammer – Restoration Ecologist

Funding Sources
National Fish and Wildlife Program – Pioneers in Conservation Program

Project Partners
Samish Tribe