My Columbia River - Kris Parke

Nelson Creek, Skamokawa Area

I am Kris Parke. I worked in a summer project with Hayden Miles, Joel McEntire, Claire Cothren, Paul Cutberth, Becky Hoven, and Kaylyn Kaattari, called the Nelson Creek Project. The project was originally John Doumit’s idea, a now retired FFA teacher. Jeff Rooklidge, a science teacher at Wahkiakum High School, taught and supervised us. Karen Bertroch, Director of Wahkiakum Community Foundation, found our funding, and organized many of our activities.

Our group conducted a scientific survey of Nelson Creek. People have told us, many times, there are so many watersheds in our area that the professionals in the field do not have enough time to monitor them all. That is why there needs to be more organizations like us. Properly trained local groups could monitor watersheds in their area, and then report their findings. This would allow the knowledge of the area to be greatly improved.
Some people might say, “It is just a little stream. In the summer, it’s just over a cubic foot of water traveling through per second.” That may seem like only a little, but every day 1,440 cubic feet of water flows into the Elochoman, and then into the Columbia River. In the winter there is often 21 cubic feet of water traveling through the stream every second. That is the equivalent of 30,240 cubic feet of water per day.
We tried to get all sides of the picture. To do this, we learned from professionals in the field of science, such as Ian Sinks from CLT and Allan Whiting from CREST. Then, we talked to local landowners who have lived here for generations. We also observed a Debriae logging operation and talked to Mark Stanley, a logging safety inspector, to learn about the forestry practices in place to protect streams, such as buffer zones, and the SFI stamp. Finally, we talked to Wahkiakum County Commissioner Dan Cothren about owl circles and murrelet nest sites.
Another issue we discussed was noxious weeds. Knotweed can spread several ways in our area. It can send out rhizomes through its roots, which allow large clumps to grow, and the nodes, or places where a leaf stalk branches out, can grow into a whole new plant if they are washed down stream. Purple loosestrife can also spread extremely rapidly. Each mature plant can have approximately thirty flower heads, and each head is capable of producing two to three million seeds per year. These noxious weeds are a huge problem because they crowd out our native wetland plants, and ruin the diversity of the ecosystem. The most common control method for knotweed is injection with a glyphosate herbicide. There is a biological control method for purple loosestrife, two species of Galerucella beetle and a root-eating weevil (Hylobius transversovittatus).
In order for the health of our watersheds to improve, we have to start small and get all the small watersheds healthy, and work our way downward. If we get the small watersheds as close to their natural state as possible, the rivers they feed into, such as the Columbia will improve themselves. If we keep this attitude, and get our communities involved, I think we could keep our area healthy, and improve it for generations to come.
Kris Parke participated in the 2005 Nelson Creek Project. The project was funded primarily by a grant from the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership. Parke and fellow student Hayden Miles won awards at the statewide FFA Spring Fair for the project.