Shellfish Farms and Salmon Streams: Partners for Healthy Estuaries

In 1977, Little Skookum Shellfish Growers (LSSG) took over management of 2.19ha of shellfish beds and 7ha of uplands from the pioneer Lynch family who had operated a clam, oyster and dairy farm on Little Skookum Inlet since 1883. Management responsibilities included over 300m of Lynch Creek stream bed (WRIA 14 stream 00026) historically used for low-head hydroelectric power, agricultural and domestic consumption. LSSG started to monitor water quality and flow in Lynch Creek and stream counts of the fall run of Chum (Oncorhynchus keta) and Coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Cooperative enhancement programs with the Squaxin Island Tribe and WDF&W over the past 30 years to remove salmon migration barriers and old hydroelectric structures and put in weirs have resulted in run increases from 78 Chum and Coho (1978) to over 6000 fish in Lynch Creek and opened over 1.2 km of stream bed to spawning. LSSG’s long term interest is in sustained release of natural nutrients to maintain shellfish production and in sustaining high water quality in Lynch Creek. Protect ing the health of shellfish beds in Totten and Skookum inlets is good practice for Little Skookum Inlet’s ecological health and good business practice for us as a company.

Hydrologic History of Lynch Creek

In 1883 Jeremiah Lynch bought 32 ha of logged off land, 1km inland from Little skookum Inlet, from William Walter. Over the next 50 years his family homesteaded and irrigated an additional 160 ha (in red). By 1909 they had dammed and diverted all of upper Lynch creek for irrigation and domestic use. By 1935, flow in Lynch Creek was dammed for hydroelectric power (old penstocks at Lynch Creek fall line (arrow below)), domestic and agricultural use, severely limiting flow the lower 300m and effectively eliminating any salmon run.

Peter Becker Ph.D.
Little Skookum Shellfish Growers LLC

Shelton. WA

1909 Mason County timber cruise map based on original 1856 land survey

Some of the 1984 in-stream enhancements by WDF&W

Fawn Lake Dam

Fawn Lake Dam was built in the mid 1960’s to create a lakeside residential area. It incorporates the drainage above the Lynch water right. The impoundment now cooperatively supplies significant water flow to Lynch Creek for the Nov.- Dec. salmon run.

Recovery of Lynch Creek Salmon Run

Salmon recovery on Lynch Creek by LSSG began in Nov. 1978 under Dr. Michael Kyte with cooperation of the Squaxin Tribal Biologists. Fish counts, stream flow, temperature documentation and obstruction removal in the lower 300m of Lynch Creek were successful in restoring some of the previous natural run of Chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) and gained WDF&W listing as a Significant salmon run by 1982.

Further in-stream enhancements ( left) in 1984 and replacement of a partially blocking highway culvert at Lynch Road in about 1995 opened up free access to almost a half kilometer of spawning area above Lynch Road up to Fawn Lake Dam. Cooperation of Fawn Lake Maintenance Commission with water management on Lynch Creek during the fall Chum run further enhanced the run between 1985 and 1991.

Why did a clam farm restore a salmon run?

LSSG recognized there were several good reasons, beyond the obvious one, for restoring and enhancing the Lynch Creek salmon run:

üü Control of water quality in Lynch Creek discharge.
üü Control of upland development and timber cutting near a

salmon stream with a significant salmon run.

üü Slow annual release of valuable nutrients to the bay for our clam and oyster crops.

üü Creation of an educational site to encourage others.