Reader’s perspective: Community volunteers dig to restore Edmonds Marsh
After 500 hours of hard work over 18 days this summer, more than 50 community volunteers savored their success in restoring water flows in the Edmonds Marsh that had been blocked by chain link fences and a huge mass of an invasive plant called bittersweet nightshade. .
This year’s voluntary restoration project, conducted through an Adopt-A-Highway agreement with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), continued last year’s effort to restore the flows from Shellabarger Creek into the Edmonds Marsh. Monthly data collected over several years by the Edmonds Creek team and students from Meadowdale and Edmonds-Woodway High Schools showed that the invasive nightshade bloom had formed thickets in and around the chain-link fence on both sides of Highway 104 blocking and diverting the flow of fresh water. . The nightshade had also spread throughout the wetland, submerging the creek channel and killing trees and other native vegetation.
Restoration work this summer focused on restoring the creek channel on the west side of Highway 104 to complement last year’s successful restoration work on the east side of Highway 104, which restored a creek channel creek from the lower end of Shellabarger Creek to the culverts. These culverts, although partially blocked by sediment, are the only outflow channel for Shellabarger Creek on the west side of Highway 104 into the Edmonds Marsh and into Puget Sound. Prior to the 2021 restoration work, the nightshade entwined fence diverted winter stormwater from the creek to the Dayton Street intersection, causing flooding.
Community volunteers recognized early on in this restoration project that they could not eradicate all of the invasive nightshades because they were so ubiquitous in the wetland. The restoration project instead focused on removing the chain-link fence (which the nightshade used as an “anchor”) and removing the nightshade where possible to keep stream channels open. The edges of the wetland along Highway 104 were also a priority for nightshade removal to prevent this invasive plant from growing on trees and killing them.
The volunteers also quickly learned the dangers of tearing out the roots of the black nightshade, only to end up waist deep in mud and/or water. Wooden pallets (donated by Beacon Building Products and others) became “bridges” across the wetland so volunteers could cross the wetland without fear of getting stuck in the mud. Waders, donated by Olympic fly fishermen, have become fashionable garments for working effectively in knee-deep mud and waist-deep water.
As one of the ‘regular’ volunteers, Selena Bolotin said, “I have gained so much by volunteering at the Swamp Restoration Project; increased knowledge of marsh habitat and the negative impact of invasive plants under environmental neglect. It was gratifying to see previously stagnant water begin to flow, all during 2 hours of pulling nightshade plants. The camaraderie of other volunteers doing meaningful work made the time pass quickly and saw rapid progress for a seemingly overwhelming task. The participation of student volunteers was particularly brilliant, as they learned scientific tools and knowledge and how to leverage community advocacy – an outdoor education that will serve us all well into the future.
Another objective of this year’s restoration project was to find and re-establish the Shellabarger Creek channel running west into the estuary and/or connecting to Willow Creek. Although aerial maps and reports from city contractors hinted at a creek channel running west from the culverts under Highway 104, no such channel could be found in this area. . Finally, in early August, volunteer John Brock noticed a westerly flow of water as he was pulling out nightshade roots at the southern end of the restoration site (far south of the culverts). Once this westward creek channel was found, the final weeks of nightshade removal focused on opening Shellabarger Creek as far west as possible. Although the volunteers made significant progress opening the creek into the marsh, the end of the season arrived before they could find the connection between Willow Creek and the estuary. Therefore, this work will have to wait until next summer unless the stream opens the last channel “by itself” during heavy winter rains.
Overall, volunteers were successful in re-establishing the Shellabarger Creek channel on both sides of Highway 104 and west into Marsh. This will bring enormous benefits to the functionality of the marsh ecosystem and will benefit the wildlife and bird watchers who frequent the Edmonds marsh-estuary. The Edmonds Marsh estuary has deteriorated due to both lack of daily tidal exchange and freshwater circulation. With the city finally agreeing to keep the tidal gate open year-round (which began in October 2020) and the diligent work of community volunteers to improve fresh water circulation and surrounding trees, we are on the right way to bring the salmon back to the swamp. and its coves once the tidal connection is opened through the old Unocal property and Marina Beach.
Many thanks to WSDOT and all the volunteers who have helped prove that community volunteers can successfully restore our natural environment without draining taxpayer funds for expensive consultants (who don’t have knowledge of the field or nor the perseverance of community members) . As the saying goes “Where there is a will – there is a way”.
Swamp Restoration volunteers were Aiden Curran, Amelie Mederios, Andy Chin, Barbara Ford, Bernie Zavala, William Alexander, Bob Mooney, Chris Walton, Diane Buckshnis, Isis Liaw, Joe Scordino, John Brock, Joshua Ly, Karen Andres, Kenneth Schultz, Lars Andres, Laszlo Rosman, Lorraine Monroe, Makana Apio, Nancy Scordino, Nathan Zeon, Scot Simpson, Selena Bolotin, Teresa Schultz, Valerie Rosman, Vivian Olson, Alessandra Serafini, Anna Berge, Annabelle Yenter, Benten Taing, Elizabeth Fleming , Bob Seidensticker, Christopher Konkel, Dave Millette, Evan Gray, Greg Ferguson, Jane O’Dell, Kai Rosman, Kathy Jones, Lucia Brady, Maria Metler, Marjie Fields, Matthew Jack, Noah Croskey, Piper Hanson, Russel Jack, Tauri Senn , Vance Ekrem, Waylisha Gray and Yvette Osai.
— By Joe Scordino
Project Manager, Edmonds Stream Team