Puget Sound Innovation Stories

West Beach Creek Dam Removal

Restoring the connection between stream and sea

West Beach Creek is one of the few streams in the San Juan Islands without a natural barrier, and so it was historically accessible to salmon. The Northwest Straits Foundation removed a small dam that had been built to create a pond on the private shoreline parcel facing President’s Channel. Two 24-inch culverts under the driveway/dam blocked fish access to miles of upland stream, limited flow, and created a build-up of sediment in the creek up to the culvert at West Beach Road. The culverts and dam were replaced with a 16-foot diameter culvert. Friends of the San Juans managed the riparian planting, engaging volunteers, and ensuring new plants were watered. Washington Department of Natural Resources Puget Sound Corps also contributed labor to the project. The project was designed to restore access to the creek for juvenile and adult cutthroat and juvenile Chinook, chum, pink, and Coho salmon and to create potential spawning opportunities for chum and pink salmon. The new passage allows fish to pass upstream and downstream and accommodates high tides and future sea level rise. The creek’s natural water and sediment flow have been restored and woody debris has begun to accumulate as the stream finds its natural course.

What worked:

  • Removing the culverts opened 1,584 feet of stream for salmon to find refuge and food.
  • The open channel allowed fish to move from the ocean into the stream.
  • Restoring one acre of estuary provided habitat for young salmon to rest and grow before moving out to the ocean.
  • Salmon were found upstream from the project within one year of dam removal.
  • Removing the culverts allowed sediment to move out of the creek and restored the natural sediment movement within a year.
  • The creek naturally accumulated woody debris from upstream in good quantities.


  • Native vegetation planted will cool water and provide insect food for salmon.
  • The project was seen as a legacy by the family who owned the property.
  • Partnering with local volunteers and organizations built ‘ownership’ of the project.


  • Congressional District: 2
  • Legislative District: 40
  • WRIA: 2
  • County: San Juan


  • Northwest Straits Foundation
  • Friends of the San Juans
  • Washington Department of Natural Resources Puget Sound Corps


  • Salmon Recovery Funding Board
  • PSAR
  • Alcoa Foundation

More Info

Publish Date: July 4, 2019
Category: Salmon
Congressional Districts: Congressional Dist. 2
Legislative Districts: Legislative Dist. 40
Counties: San Juan
Habitat Types: Nearshore | Riparian & Wetland