Historically, Finney Creek, a major tributary to the Skagit River, provided important habitat for four salmon species, chinook, coho, chum and pink, as well as supporting steelhead runs. In recent years, erosion and sediment problems have negatively affected habitat quality, significantly affecting fisheries species. The Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group has been working since 1991 to restore and enhance salmon resources in the Skagit River watershed through public outreach, education, and habitat restoration. The group works in cooperation with other nonprofits, local landowners, conservation groups, government agencies and tribes, and is recognized locally as a leader in implementing salmon restoration projects.
NOAA and ASA worked to restore Finney Creek by increasing channel stability and sediment storage capacity, reducing water temperatures and improving overall habitat conditions for anadromous fish species within the watershed. A unique phase of the restoration involves the use of volunteers to place large woody debris in the creek without the use of heavy equipment, minimizing environmental impacts and increasing the role of volunteers in the restoration activities. The project will result in $225,000 worth of habitat improvements. Monitoring is an essential element of all restoration activities in the area and relies heavily on community involvement. Volunteers will be trained and assisted by restoration technicians involved with the project, and their participation will continue for an additional five years beyond project completion. Spawning surveys will be conducted in the fall and winter to determine the number of salmon returning to the creek, and in stream structures will be monitored after winter rains to determine if the new structures are functioning to increase pool formation, stabilize stream banks and increase habitat. Macro invertebrate use, an excellent indicator of water quality in streams, has been followed in the creek over the last two years, and data will be used to help gauge project success.
Since 1993, the Conservation and Replenishment Division of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) has completed more than 14 oyster reef restoration projects throughout the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay. The restoration in the Great Wicomico River produced 2500 bushels of oysters which were placed on a three-dimensional reef. By the summer, the spatset increased by 200 to 26,000 percent. The NOAA Restoration Center has joined together with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to continue Virginia's successful oyster reef restoration program in the Elizabeth River.
This community -based restoration effort was implemented by volunteers from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, citizens in the Hampton Roads area, and the VMRC with funding provided by NOAA and the Virginia Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. Oyster shells were used to rebuild an oyster reef on a historic footprint adjacent to a natural oyster bar. Local middle and high school students grew more than 100,000 bushels of hatchery-produced seed oysters in floating cages. At the end of the academic year, local marine contractors planted the oysters on the reconstructed reef. The effort was a truly unique approach to the restoration of oysters and has encouraged similar projects in other parts of Virginia. Its educational and ecological benefits makes it a model for establishing partnerships between communities, conservation organizations, and state and federal government agencies for achieving environmental restoration.