History, science and common sense tell us that a vibrant, healthy ecosystem is essential for the health and well-being of all life on earth. The vast marine and terrestrial life in San Juan County is indispensable for the economic and spiritual well-being of the region. Abundant food, clean water, pure air, and sunshine nurture abundant and varied island wildlife. As we continue to focus our attention on the Deer Harbor ecosystem, we begin to realize that we can make changes todays that will create a better place for all. The intrinsic balance of nature stays with people and extends balance to all efforts and relationships.
Partnering with local, state and federal government agencies, Native Americans, scientists, schools and universities, non-profits, businesses, and individuals, the Deer Harbor Stewardship Project, a critical showpiece of facilitated private land stewardship, endeavors through education, restoration, research. remediation, outreach, and personal involvement to create a model of synergy for the restoration of a vibrant, healthy, and productive Puget Sound.
Estuaries are critical for survival of many species. Tens of thousands of birds, mammals, fish, and other wildlife depend on estuarine habitats as places to live, feed, and reproduce. Estuaries provide ideal spots for migratory birds to rest and refuel during their journeys. And many species of fish and shellfish rely on the sheltered waters of estuaries as protected places to spawn, giving them the nickname “nurseries of the sea”. Hundreds of marine organisms including most commercially valuable fish species, depend on estuaries at some point during their development.
Click on the photo to see the official report
The Deer Harbor Lagoon Estuary qualified as Priority Habitat under Washington Department of Wildlife criteria as reported by Terry Domico in the Puget Sound Bio-Survey site assessment. Criteria: high wildlife density, high wildlife diversity, important breeding habitat, important feeding habitat, important wildlife season range, important wildlife movement corridors, high vulnerability to habitat alteration.
We, along with many other knowledgeable agencies, worked for years to convince the County of the vital importance of re-establishing the historic width of the mouth of the estuary by replacing the old small bridge with a much longer one. Finally, when the old bridge was declared not safe any longer, a new bridge was constructed, opening up the width from 30 ' to 80', thereby reducing the silting on the estuary bottom, eliminating the erosion on the banks, and moderating the tidal flow in and out so that small fish could navigate under the bridge.
2016 Deer Harbor Bridge Replacement Project report from San Juan County Public Works
"San Juan County has recently completed the construction of a new bridge in Deer Harbor replacing a 50' three span timber trestle with an 80' single span concrete structure. The old timber bridge (built in 1970) had long been understood to be an environmentally damaging structure, with its rock sill choking sediment and preventing natural tidal exchanges."
The orchards and meadows gradually descend eastward and meander along the sides of the estuary some 1700 feet, with forested uplands to the east and to the west. To the north, 2 additional streams and a pond are surrounded by more fields, orchards, and small forest at the head of the lagoon, aside the heritage orchard first planted by early settlers. Around the head and down the eastern shore of the estuary are more fields, orchards, and varied stands of native trees. The meadows and farmland on the eastern shore roll up to rocky knolls and deciduous forests until they reach the magnificent Stewards Knoll, with its commanding panoramic views out over the harbor and to the distant Olympic Mountains.
This anadromous fish ladder is on Fish Trap Creek, on the edge of this amazing parcel.
A 12 foot wide trench was dug opening up the stream channel according to specifications engineered by Tom Slocum, San Juan Islands Conservation Distri