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Barr Creek History

Barr Creek Project 20 Year Anniversary

A History of the Barr Creek Projects

Excerpted from the Northshore Newsletter

1996 marks the 20 year anniversary for the Northshore Chapter's Barr Creek imprinting pond project. Early in April we will receive approximately 25,000 steelhead smolts, as we have for the last nineteen years. We will feed these fish for 3 to 4 weeks and then release them into the Skykomish River. It is our hope and the project's goal that two years from now, when the returning adult steelhead ascend the river, they will gather off the mouth of Barr Creek or hold in the lower river reaches. If they do, it will improve the angler opportunity in that area.
Our fish come to us from the hatchery at Reiter Ponds. Hatched from eggs taken from returning hatchery females and fertilized by returning hatchery males, these fish are selected and bred for their early return timing so that they remain genetically distinct from late returning native steelhead. The smolts are transported by truck to our facility at Barr Creek. Some of the young steelhead will have begun to smolt as early as February and all of them will have smolted by April. Data used by the Department of Fish and Wildlife indicate that imprinting can take place in as little as 2 weeks. We hold the smolts back and release them with the new moon. This strategy is designed to cause them to hurry out of the watershed. This minimizes the impact on the river of a combined hatchery release of a hundred thousand or more hungry smolts.
The Barr Creek imprinting facility consists of a concrete dam constructed across the creek in a place that creates a pond. Every year in late March Northshore Chapter members meet to prepare the pond for the arrival of the smolts. Boards are placed across the dam's spillway to raise the water level in the pond. Automatic feeder stations are set up and heavy monofilament nylon line is strung across the pond to create a barrier to flying predators. After the fish are delivered volunteers check the pond and fill the feeders every other day. When the new moon arrives the boards and screens are removed from the spillways and with the rush of water draining from the pond the fish begin their downstream migration.
The project was first conceived in 1973 when the Department of Wildlife asked our chapter if we would be interested in imprinting some steelhead on the lower river. Fishing had dropped off in the Skykomish River and the club was looking for a project. The Barr Creek imprinting project was a wonderful idea that could even improve the fishing. Our chapter began to evaluate streams between Sultan and Monroe. Barr Creek was chosen as the likely site because it was located within the area specified by the Department of Wildlife and because we had the cooperation of landowner Dick Barr. Stream surveys were conducted over the next two years at seasonal intervals to determine the possible existence of native fish. The Department of Wildlife was concerned that the project might interfere with natural production on the creek. The surveys indicated that no fish were present so the location was approved.
While the Department of Wildlife took care of the permit process, chapter members set about designing a dam. The original dam was located in the same spot as is presently in use. It was constructed of sandbags, two deep, laid across the stream and stacked about three feet high. Local farmers donated burlap bags and our chapter had a sandbag-filling party at the Hoco Pit in Sultan. Northshore Chapter members hauled the bags in pickup trucks to Barr Creek where they constructed the dam.
During the first night the water level rising behind the dam caused it to fail. Sand bags were strewn far downstream and club members arriving the next day were surprised to find their efforts wasted. But determination won the day as members reorganized and rebuilt the dam. This time the sandbags were placed two deep but oriented so that their length was parallel to the stream. This made the dam considerably wider and more stable. This time the dam held and the first steelhead smolts were delivered on schedule, early in April 1976.
A single feeder controlled by a timer was built and placed at Barr Creek that first year. Members had quite a job trying to calibrate the timer to release the correct amount of feed daily. It took several days of experimentation to get it right. That first year, despite the setbacks, turned out to be a great success and club members rallied around the project.
One of the drawbacks of the sandbag construction was that the bags had to be emptied and refilled every year. After two years of filling sandbags, members decided to design and build a permanent structure. A concrete dam was built and things looked considerably easier. Unfortunately, after one year a flood washed out the south end of the dam and half of the structure collapsed. Members again rallied and modifications were made that left the dam as it is today. A second feeder station was added at that time. Having weathered some major floods without further damage, it looks as if we finally have a design that will last. The project has operated smoothly since with over half a million steelhead smolts imprinted to date.
Over the years the Barr Creek Project has brought our Chapter recognition and respect within the community and on a state level. We have been recipients of a number of awards including the 1979 Steelhead Trout Award for overall outstanding chapter and the 1980 Silver Trout award for chapter project of the year, both presented by the Northwest Steelhead and Salmon Council. But more important than that, many Northshore Chapter members have had the satisfaction that comes with hands-on participation in fisheries enhancement projects. Being involved is a rewarding experience and the Barr Creek project has served as a focal point for our membership.
In 1994 we conducted a snorkel survey on Barr Creek and identified steelhead and Coho salmon fingerlings. The discovery generated renewed interest in Barr Creek because it demonstrated the existence of natural production where there had been none. Members have seen adult steelhead spawning in the creek for a number of years. Walt Rose, president of the chapter at the inception of the Barr Creek project, is convinced that these spawners are descendants of fish imprinted at our facility.
In March of 1995 club members walked Barr Creek and identified productive habitat. We videotaped the stream and mad a detailed map. We have had a number of fisheries' biologists look at the stream and they agree that there is untapped potential for natural production of steelhead. We are hopeful that we can develop a project that would tap that potential by enhancing the natural characteristics of the stream. Efforts are underway to develop a specific proposal to present to the land owners for there approval.
Monroe resident Dick Barr operates the farm on which our imprinting pond is located. I visited Dick at his farm recently and listened as he described the huge runs of salmon that used to run up Barr Creek years ago. "It's not like it was before," he told me. I shared his disappointment. Dick would like to see the salmon return as would all of us. He even said he might start fishing the Skykomish River again if they did.

Barr Creek Rehabilitation:

There is an ongoing project to rehabilitate Barr Creek to provide better habitat for nurturing wild Steelhead and Salmon smolts. To this end the Club has mapped the Creek and consulted with various Fisheries biologists and Water authorities to set up an approved rehabilitation plan. During the process of mapping the stream path wild Coho and Steelhead smolts were seen, raising our hopes that the stream could support good numbers of wild fish with the addition of structure and shade to the stream bed. The club has added some additional structure back in to the channel to allow smolts and adult fish to more easily migrate through the lower part of the creek. Several tree planting projects on Barr Creek and Krissy Creek, a tributary, have added some additional shade and cover. We expect this area to remain a focus of our restoration efforts.

Barr Creek Projects

Addition of Large Wood Debris:  Barr Creek Update: Its planted and doing very well! The floods of November 2006 gave us a real test up at Barr creek. I’m happy to report that the woody debris that we installed this summer held very well. The manta anchors, cable and wood took a big hit from record flows and held true. Some of the pieces shifted (as would be expected) but they mostly stayed put and carved out nice little holes along the logs. On November 17th we took on the job of planting the Barr creek restoration site with over 2700 trees, shrubs and stakes. Our partner on the project (The Stilly Snohomish Task Force) was a great help and helped to really pull off a big project in great time. The Task force rounded up over 100 people to help our members get the plants into the soil in about 4 hours. Cara and Jeff organized the planting, and a lot of the work. The task force purchased the plants for us, had them transported to the site, arranged them in locations and spaced accordingly. They brought out over 150 shovels, many other tools, coffee, hot chocolate, fruit, and a lot of enthusiasm. Our chapter provided the muffins, bagels and cream cheese and Chris’s special smoked summer steelhead. The day was perfect, sunny and cool. .There was also lots of Chum Salmon in the creek when the work began. We had a lot of kids come and help, they were amazed at the big brute Chums that were thrashing around the logs that we had placed. The digging was tough as the flood had scoured the area of a lot of the topsoil, but everyone made the best of it. Everyone seemed to have some fun and got well fed too. I had to go back following he windstorm in December and replant a number of large trees that had blown over before they could root. The area looks great though and is doing well. We are going to have a few work parties this spring to maintain the area of invasive plants; this is an important aspect of stream restoration that often goes ignored. It takes a lot of commitment to do these projects so I hope we can get your help at our next work party. In fall of 2004 the Chapter installed 7 large pieces of wood to Barr Creek near the confluence with Kissey Creek.  The added structures were designed to create cover and bank stability to the creek.  The wood was trenched into the banks and held in place with deep seated Manta Anchors systems.  The area was replanted with willow and cottonwood trees.  We continued plantings in the area in spring of 2005 and 2006.  The chapter is now looking to expand our work at Barr and Kissey  creeks.  We are going to be removing invasive blackberries and Canary reed grass that is along the ponds and wetlands.  The Canary reed grass has made it difficult to reestablish trees along the ponds and by removing it we can gain ground on getting the trees to grow.  The area is rich with fish, this is great opportunity to enhance a highly valuable resource.  We are grateful to Mr. Dick Barr for allowing us to work on his land.  This work will greatly benefit fish and wildlife in the area.  The project will encompass approximately 15 acres, a large size of land indeed.  Because of the large scope of this next project we are going to be partnering the project with the Stilly-Sno Conservation Group  Dave Steiner, project manager with the Stilly-Sno group is excited to help us plan and implement the project, together we will make the project a reality.  We are going to need lots of volunteer help with the project, so step up and help us!

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