Leland Watershed Action Plan
Until the mid-1900's salmon were known to migrate up the Leland watershed and spawn in tributaries along the way all the way up and into Lake Leland. This migration has ended although some residents still witness salmon periodically in the lower reaches of the watershed as far as lower Leland Creek. The end of this migration is only one of several signals that the health of the Leland watershed is threatened. Factors such as the lack of culvert maintenance, invasion of non-native species, and continued development also indicate that it is time to take action to restore and protect the environmental health of the watershed. The following action plan has been developed to help do this.
Maintain and Improve Culverts
In order for salmon to return to the Leland watershed and spawn, they must be able to pass through the culverts along their route. It is crucial that these culverts be maintained to remove possible blockages and that those in need of repair be improved. Maintenance and improvement of culverts will not only benefit salmon but will also help to reduce flooding events that regularly occur in the Leland Watershed.
Remove Non-native Reed Canary Grass
Reed canary grass has invaded the upper reaches of Leland creek and the south end of Lake Leland. This non-native grass has out-competed the natural vegetation and now poses threats to salmon habitat in the creek as well as contributing to flooding problems. Reed canary grass is difficult to control because of its hardiness, and rapid growth; however, there are ways to remove it. Some watershed residents have attempted to control the grass by manually pulling it. While this is effective, it is also very labor intensive. An alternative method is selective planting and maintaining of favorable shade producing species such as willows as reed canary grass does not tolerate shade. Once shaded, reed canary grass will be replaced by natural vegetation, which will help to provide the riparian and in-stream habitat that fish need to survive as well as reduce flooding problems.
Adopt Development Regulations
Development itself is not the threat to salmon habitat in the Leland watershed; rather, it is the way in which development occurs. Residents of the area need reliable information on septic system upkeep and riparian buffer zone maintenance. It is important that residents of the Leland watershed be given the tools needed to protect the health and beauty of the area in which they live.
Water Quality Monitoring
There are many threats to water quality and salmon habitat in the Leland watershed. In order to effectively identify these threats, water quality must be monitored accurately and consistently. Currently there is not enough reliable data available about the quality of water in the Leland watershed, and thus it is difficult to identify necessary changes (see attachment 1).
The Jefferson County Planning and Building Departments and the Jefferson County Commissioners recognized these threats and the 1991 Quilcene/Dabob Bays Watershed Action Plan was developed to protect water quality in the county. One of the specific actions recommended in the plan is to "monitor all freshwater inputs into Quilcene Bay." Since the adoption of this plan the recommended monitoring has not been completed. The Jefferson County Conservation District did some monitoring of the Quilcene Watershed in 1992 and 1993. However the monitoring was only short term and the results for pH and dissolved oxygen monitoring could not be reported because their accuracy was suspect. One of the conclusions drawn in the final report analyzing the accurate data state, "only with long term monitoring can efforts for improvement be assessed." Long term monitoring will help protect fish, and wildlife habitat in the Leland watershed. The availability of water quality data for the Leland watershed will lead to improved watershed planning decisions and help to protect the environmental health of the region.
There was a time, several decades ago, when salmon and steelhead returned to Lake Leland. Older residents now have only memories of the days when they caught these fish with just a net and their bare hands. Today there are few obstacles that prevent the anadromous fish from returning to the upper reaches of the watershed. These obstacles are not difficult to overcome. By taking action now we can protect the natural health of the Leland watershed and avoid losing these historic runs forever.