Restoration of nearshore habitat is a goal of the City of Bellingham. The City and other stakeholders (e.g., Bellingham Bay Action Team) have identified Little Squalicum Creek and beach area as a priority site for shoreline enhancement and restoration in Bellingham Bay (CGS 2009).
Little Squalicum Estuary Master Plan Sections
In 2009, the City of Bellingham Parks Department conducted a public planning process to create the
Little Squalicum Creek Master Plan.
The master plan informed the EPA's cleanup of contaminated soil and water within the site. The master plan also identified Little Squalicum Creek Estuary as a priority project. Site characterizations performed in 2009 in the proposed estuary footprint determined that the soils are suitable for estuary habitat.
The primary objective of the Little Squalicum Creek estuary project is to enhance estuarine wetland habitat along the Bellingham Bay shoreline by creating a 2-acre estuary in lower part of Little Squalicum Creek Park.
Like all of Puget Sound, small estuaries, including the Little Squalicum Creek estuary, have become increasingly valuable as the amount of intertidal habitat in Bellingham Bay has decreased. It is estimated that about 280 acres of aquatic land have been lost in inner Bellingham Bay, and most of that acreage is intertidal estuarine habitat associated with streams.
Estuaries provide a complex mosaic of shallow water habitats and distributary channels that serve as migration corridors for juvenile and adult salmon. Little Squalicum Creek estuary will provide nearshore marine habitat for juvenile salmon leaving the Nooksack River and Squalicum Creek. It will also provide connectivity to upstream habitat. Many species are likely to use the estuary including juvenile salmon, Pacific groundfish including flatfish (e.g., Starry Flounder), rockfish (e.g., sculpin), surfperch, stickleback, and otters. Great Blue Herons, dabbling ducks, and various seabirds and shorebirds are also likely to use the estuary. Fish use of the area is being monitored through the
Chinook Nearshore Study.