Grant to further protect Drayton Harbor and California Creek Estuary

Press Release – June 7th, 2020

Whatcom Land Trust, in partnership with the Washington State Department of Ecology, has received a grant funded by the US Fish & Wildlife Coastal Wetlands Program to purchase and restore four properties totaling 54.66 acres of coastal wetland habitat and 6,500 feet of shoreline. All four properties are situated along California Creek, a major tributary stream to Drayton Harbor in Whatcom County.

Whatcom Land Trust is one of seven Washington state projects that received a total of $5 million from the Coastal Wetlands program. The seven statewide projects were among 23 approved nationwide totaling $17 million. The federal grant program favors wetlands of rare types within a ecoregion, including specially recognized wetland functions – especially those in decline or threatened with destruction. Grants provide up to 75 percent of the cost of wetland acquisition and protection.

The Land Trust currently owns 52.5 acres at the mouth of California Creek where it empties into Drayton Harbor. This property has high conservation values due to its location, ecological makeup and future role as a public park along the shoreline. The California Creek sub-basin makes up 40% of the total Drayton Harbor watershed, meaning restoration will benefit water quality in Drayton Harbor and impact Whatcom County on a larger scale.

Marine estuaries are an irreplaceable natural resource that provide many benefits including wildlife habitat, improved  biodiversity, and water quality.

 Since the initial 11.5-acre land purchase in June 2017 and second adjacent parcel purchase in December, the Land Trust has completed significant salmon habitat restoration, invasive species removal, two barns were demolished by Moceri Construction and other improvements on 12.5 acres of lower California Creek. This was done in partnership with Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, and Whatcom Conservation District, in part, thanks to a grant from the Rose Foundation’s Stewardship & Mitigation Fund and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service funding. An Additional partner is Washington Sea Grant in monitoring for the invasive European green crab.

Concurrently, Blaine/Birch Bay Parks & Recreation District #2 (BBPRD2) applied for and was awarded two grants from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office to assist in park infrastructure and public access, including a kayak/canoe launch, parking, restrooms, trails and eventual link between Birch Bay State Park and Peace Arch Park.

In recognition, BBPRD2 and the Trust co-hosted a property tour for legislators and funders in August. Now, this beautiful and ecologically important place where people meet nature is permanently protected, and closer to beginning the next phase of its life as BBPRD2’s California Creek Estuary Park.

“This partnership with the Whatcom Land Trust has given an opportunity to the Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District to preserve this estuary and provide recreational opportunities for Whatcom County residents and visitors. Thanks to our local Representatives Sharon Shewmake and Luanne Van Werven for help in securing a grant from the Recreation Conservation Office for this project. With hopes to open in 2023 this day use park will have a parking lot, restroom, kayak launch and hiking/biking trails. It will also serve as a trailhead for the District’s Bay to Bay Trail from Birch Bay to Blaine that they are working on.” Said Ted Morris, Director, BBPRD2.

The additional 54.66 acres of coastal wetland habitat will require a stewardship plan that will provide more restoration and community engagement opportunities, as well as permanent protections for one of the most beautiful coastal areas in one of Whatcom County’s fastest growing communities. When plans are in place and it is safe for us to invite you outdoors, look for stewardship work party opportunities on the Land Trust’s website ( or in an upcoming e-newsletter.

Gabe Epperson, Executive Director of Whatcom Land Trust said, “On behalf of Whatcom Land Trust we’d like to thank the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Coastal Wetlands Program, the Department of Ecology and our many supporters for making this land purchase possible. “

Epperson went on to say, “It’s a win for the interdependent species that will benefit from improved habitat, it’s a win for the Blaine-Birch Bay community that will benefit from improved water quality and a new public park, and it’s a win for all of Whatcom County, whose generous ongoing support help us qualify for land purchase grants like this.”

Although we cannot be together to celebrate this win. We want to thank you for making this and so much more possible. 

About the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Grants:

The Department of Ecology announced they have secured seven National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grants worth more than $5 million. The 2020 federal grants will help our local partners restore and enhance nearly 500 acres of coastal wetlands and 17,500 feet of marine shoreline in Jefferson, Kitsap, Snohomish, Thurston, and Whatcom counties.

About Coastal Wetland Habitat:

Wetlands that border or are close to Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean can be among the most complex, productive  ecosystems in the world, rivaling the planet’s rain forests and coral reefs. Coastal wetlands include estuarine salt marshes as well as freshwater wetlands that extend inland within a watershed. Washington’s coastal wetlands help support endangered Southern Resident orca whales and other marine mammals, salmon, forage fish, shellfish, waterfowl and shorebirds, as well as an array of other plant and animal species. They help mitigate climate change by absorbing greenhouse gases, protect water quality, reduce flooding, and recharge drinking water aquifers.

Whatcom Land Trust Mission:

Whatcom Land Trust preserves and protects wildlife habitat, scenic, agricultural and open space lands in Whatcom County for future generations by securing interests in land and promoting land stewardship.

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