The Harper Estuary is a small embayment in southern Kitsap County with a rich local history tied to the native peoples and modern development in the area. Pocket estuaries and salt marsh, like Harper Estuary, are important to the Puget Sound nearshore ecosystem. These habitats are highly productive for fish and wildlife. Shallow protected waters fringed by salt marsh plants provide an abundant food source and refuge for juvenile salmonid and waterfowl species. The Harper Park and Pier are also a focal point for local community recreation and aesthetics. Harper Estuary has been impacted by fill associated with former development activities. A brick mining and manufacturing facility was built in the southwest portion of the estuary in the early 1900s (approximately where the Harper Park ball field is today). When the factory was abandoned in the 1940’s, the buildings were demolished, with much of the material pushed into the estuary, accompanying “clinker” bricks and spillage from barge loading. Bricks associated with the history of Harper Estuary remain visible today.
The estuary’s natural functions have also been impacted by current and historic road fill, along with other fill material for the boat landing. The estuary is bisected by SE Olympiad Drive Road. Tidal influence is also restricted by two undersized culverts (Olympiad Drive and Southworth Drive). Prior to Olympiad Drive, fill and pilings associated with a drawbridge road approach and shoreline road also filled portions of Harper Estuary.
Restoration of the natural values of Harper Estuary has been a local and regional priority for over a decade. The Harper estuary restoration project was selected by the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) in 2013 for funding through the Natural Resource Damage funds associated with the Cleanup Settlement Account for the ASARCO smelter site in Tacoma. The restoration project was designed to build on former habitat restoration conceptual planning over the past decade (e.g. PSNERP 2011) and incorporate stakeholder and community outreach input for the final project design. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) partnered with Kitsap County since 2013 to complete the habitat restoration design and construction.