WWU Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences Jenise Bauman and two of her students are working this winter and spring on a monitoring project at Port Orchard’s Harper’s Creek estuary, at the site of an $8 million two-phase restoration effort led by Kitsap County and the state Dept. of Ecology.
Harper’s Creek is a small but important estuary on the southeast shore of Kitsap County. The site of a former brick factory, the estuary has important value for fish and wildlife and is used recreationally, and as a boat launch.
“The first phase of the project has been completed, and we are moving on to the second phase,” Bauman said. “Our role is to monitor certain key species to see how well the restoration efforts are working.”
Bauman said Phase 1 involved replacing a culvert that was a fish-passage barrier and removing piles of “klinker” bricks left over from the long-departed factory. A ball field now sits in the factory’s former location. The new culvert allows for a tidal connection on both sides of the road that spans the estuary.
Phase II involves the removal of more bricks, Bauman’s estuary monitoring program, and the construction of a new bridge to replace the road that spans the estuary.
Bauman’s work, along with that of her two students, Caitlin Sidhu and Jordan Stoecker of Port Orchard, will focus on showing the changes and responses of the estuary to the restoration efforts.
“We will compare the disturbed portion of the estuary, where the bricks have been removed and the new culvert added, to the rest of the estuary, and compare both to other natural and restored estuaries in Washington,” she said.
Bauman and her team will look for changes in vegetation both near and in the water, and search for invasive species such as spartina, reed canarygrass, scotch broom, and purple loosetrife. They will do water quality monitoring throughout the estuary, and sample for green crabs, forage fish, and note the presence of salmonids returning to Harper’s Creek.
Stoecker, an Environmental Science major in WWU’s Huxley College on the Peninsulas program, said he is currently working with the Clear Creek Task Force doing estuary monitoring, and is looking to build on those skills with this new project.
“I’m really excited to work on this project with Dr. Bauman,” he said. “It’s an important project for the community and I know I will get a ton of field research experience working with her.”
Sidhu echoed Stoecker’s thoughts, and said the project was important both for the ecological health of the coast and because it sheds valuable light on the need to restore estuaries and the riparian zones so important to salmon and other species.
“It also allows me to give back to the community,” she said.
Bauman said her work is funded from a grant through Kitsap County through the state Dept. of Ecology.
“This is a fascinating project because we are going to be looking through this using so many different lenses, from the recreational boating community to the ecological perspective of a former industrial site, all the way to its redevelopment as a larger community park,” she said.
For more information on the Harper’s Creek Estuary monitoring project, contact Jenise Bauman at firstname.lastname@example.org.