The Tarboo Valley is a lot different than it was just a few short years ago.
The Northwest Watershed Institute (NWI), through its persistence and innovative
approach, has come a long way in restoring forested wetlands that benefit a
variety of resource concerns. The project represents a cooperative effort among
partners and programs to reclaim 120 acres that were predominately reed canary
grass wetlands. Today the wetland hydrology, floodplain connectivity and
riparian and wetland vegetation has been restored. The site now functions much
as it did prior to the 1880s.
USFWS, NRCS, FSA, Jefferson County Conservation District, Northwest Watershed
Institute, Jefferson Land Trust.
Prior to 1965, the Yarr family operated a dairy in the Tarboo Valley, a few miles
north of Dabob Bay. The Tarboo Valley like many of the Puget Sound bottom land
forests, have long been cleared. Prior to the 1880s, historical data indicates
that most of these areas were forested with Sitka spruce and cedar wetlands.
During the 1930s, the main stem of Tarboo Creek was straightened and wetland
vegetation was removed for road construction and agriculture. Drainage ditches
were constructed and drain tiles installed. In some places the original stream
elevation dropped and the floodplain connection was reduced. In 2005, the NWI purchased the 200 acre Yarr farm with
funding from a National Coastal grant administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service (USFWS). NWI' vision was to restore wetland values on 120 acres for the benefit
of aquatic and terrestrial species and improving the soil and water resource.
Peter Bahls a fish biologist and Director of NWI is the manager of the project.
“This is a rare opportunity to restore not just the stream, but the wetlands and
floodplains around it as well. These can be very productive habitats for young
Coho salmon, which live in the stream for a full year before migrating out to
The restoration is being supported by funding made available through the NRCS' WRP,
USFWS' aquatic Land Enhancement Account, USDA FSA' Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program administered locally by the
Jefferson County Conservation District and donations from many individuals and
businesses. The stream was partially realigned to approximate historic
meandering and large woody debris and spawning gravel was placed to enhance
restoration. Ditches were partially or completely filled or re-aligned and
bridges were reconstructed and cross drains installed to increase flow capacity
and improve flooding patterns. Several riparian and wetland plant communities
were established including riparian forest, wetland forested wetlands and
shrub/scrub wetlands. Students from the Swan School in Port Townsend planted
trees and shrubs along Tarboo Creek.
Specialized equipment such as rubber tracked dump trucks were used to reduce
compaction on wet soils. Additionally, NWI required the contractor to use
vegetable based hydraulic oils to reduce potential damage to the soil and water
resource. One thing anyone will be sure to comment on as they drive by the
project site is the “forest” of dead trees that resulted from the first phase of
restoration. Aside from the immediate use by wintering Bald Eagle as perches,
the trees were installed to “jump start” the snag component of the forested
wetland that will eventually inhabit the site. By the time the wetland planting
matures (~ 80 years), the snags will have decomposed and will provide critical
habitat within the forest community.
It did not take long for the restoration efforts to take effect. Immediately
following the first phase of construction in 2007, the project area sustained
an early fall rain which caused Tarboo Creek to swell outside its banks. The
hydrology restoration activities performed as intended, allowing flood flows to
slowly fill the valley, providing shallow slow moving wetland habitat for
juvenile salmon, waterfowl and Bald Eagles. Stream bank erosion during
floodwater retreat was reduced from pre-construction conditions in the
previously straighten channel. NWI' vision of
restoring the Tarboo watershed is not limited to Yarr property. Other such
activities have occurred upstream and NWI is working with landowners and
organizations to see that the lower watershed is restored also.