Kamm Creek flows through the northern parts of Whatcom County, starting near the Canadian border, meandering through farmland and eventually flowing into the mainstem of the Nooksack River.
Like other lowland streams in the Nooksack Basin, Kamm Creek provides critical spawning and rearing habitat for salmon. Unfortunately, a culvert near the headwaters of the creek blocked access to its upper reaches, limiting the amount of habitat accessible to salmon.
Fred Polinder’s family had owned and farmed the tract of land where the culvert was located for nearly a century, and when the Whatcom Conservation District approached him about replacing the culvert with a bridge he was happy to oblige. Removing the culvert allows fish to more easily travel through the entire stream, and still allows the cows that graze in the area to access pastures on both sides of the stream.
After completion of the fish passage barrier removal project, the Conservation District asked Polinder if he would be willing to participate in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, or CREP. CREP is a voluntary stewardship program that pays landowners in order to establish riparian (stream side) buffers on fish-bearing creeks.
“Along the creek we wanted to have a larger buffer so that we could work with having animals here, still be able to graze, and not do damage to the fish habitat,” said Polinder.
Riparian buffers provide a number of benefits to salmon habitat. Among those are improvements in water quality by filtering runoff, stabilizing stream banks with root systems, providing shade to keep water cool, and creating habitat complexity and supporting insect populations that act as food for salmon.
Since 2000, the CREP program in Whatcom County has created riparian buffers on nearly 230 miles of stream banks, with over 1.4 million seedlings planted. You can learn more about the CREP program at https://www.whatcomcd.org/crep
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