Habitat Improvement

Aquatic habitat in local streams, wetlands, and near-shore areas is often physically altered by new development. This can cause problems for aquatic plants and animals. The BBWARM District promotes actions that reduce the impacts of development in the Birch Bay Watershed and improve and protect aquatic habitat. Keep reading to find out how we are working to improve aquatic habitat.

How does development harm aquatic habitat?

Development can impact aquatic habitat in several ways:

  • Decreased access to habitat - physical alterations like road culverts and dams create barriers for wildlife
  • Altered stream flow - clearing land, increasing impervious surfaces and channelizing creeks can change stream flow
  • Pollution - Stormwater runoff and septic tanks can pollute waterways and decrease water quality
  • Habitat loss - replacing habitat with man-made structures decreases space for aquatic life
  • Increase in invasive species


The Birch Bay Comprehensive Stormwater Plan lists three main objectives for improving aquatic habitat:

  • Identify key shellfish, stream, and wetland habitats
  • Outline opportunities to sustain and improve shellfish habitat, salmon habitat, and wetland habitat
  • Maintain and protect natural areas including riparian zones, wetlands, and beachfront by discouraging development in these areas

Habitat Improvement Projects

The BBWARM District is working to protect and improve aquatic habitat through the completion of habitat improvement projects. Some of these past and future projects are described below.

Fish Passage Barrier Removal Project: Bryan Butler Creek Tributary

  • Installation of a new bridge was completed in late September 2019.
  • Collaborative project with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) to replace a barrier culvert with a bridge to improve fish passage.
  • Culverts and other human-made barriers can block salmon passage as they migrate upstream to spawn which severely limits their available habitat.
  • Removing this barrier will allow fish to access approximately 0.7 miles of upstream habitat on this tributary of Terrell Creek, including two forested ponds ideal for summer rearing.

Photo of the pre-existing barrier culvert that was blocking fish passage

Photo of the new bridge that will allow fish passage on this tributary of Terrell Creek

Terrell Creek Salmon Habitat Improvements

  • Completed in October of 2017
  • Collaborative project with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) to improve salmon habitat along Terrell Creek.
  • Approximately 400 feet of stream channel between Brown and Aldergrove Roads were restored with large woody debris, spawning gravel, step pools and native vegetation. These are key elements for healthy salmon habitat.
  • BBWARM purchased materials for the project and NSEA provided the labor and coordinated logistics.