December 2018 Newsletter
Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed
Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 8

Salmon SEEson 2018 a Big Success

Salmon SEEson 2018 wrapped up in early December, with a few last sightings of spawners at Carkeek Park. The 2018 program included six new salmon viewing locations, for a total of 29 around King County and a first annual Salmon SEEson photo contest. The winner of the photo contest will receive a two-night stay in a yurt at Tolt-MacDonald Park. Despite the numerous viewing locations, there were fewer than average salmon returning this year, leaving some spectators disappointed.


Adult Salmon Returns Lower than Average in 2018

Annual salmon counts at the Ballard Locks showed below average return numbers for adult Chinook, sockeye, and coho salmon, representing 66%, 18%, and 48% of their long-term averages respectively. Chinook spawner numbers on WRIA 8 streams and rivers have also been below average this year. NOAA data indicate that ocean conditions in the Pacific Northwest in the last few years have been poor for salmon.


Governor Inslee's Budget Released — Impacts on Orca and Salmon Recovery

Governor Inslee released his 2019-2021 budget in December, with a strong focus on supporting Southern Resident orca recovery efforts. Investments in the Governor's budget reflect the need to increase Chinook populations, the Southern Resident's primary source of food. The Governor's capital budget includes $363 million for salmon recovery, culvert removal, water quality, and water supply projects. The transportation budget includes $296 million for the Washington State Department of Transportation to correct fish passage barriers on highways, which is a requirement of the U.S. District Court injunction. The overall $1.1 billion proposed investment in orca and salmon recovery is promising. However, while some salmon recovery funding programs would see a boost in funding under the Governor's budget, some key programs are proposed to receive far below the amounts initially requested, leaving several high priority salmon habitat protection and restoration projects unfunded. WRIA 8 looks forward to working with our partners during the upcoming legislative session to support salmon recovery funding priorities.


WRIA 8 2019 Legislative Priorities

In the lead up to the 2019 Washington State legislative session, which is scheduled to begin on January 14, WRIA 8 has developed a number of legislative priorities to advance Puget Sound watershed health and salmon recovery, as well as orca recovery. WRIA 8's 2019 state and federal legislative priorities can be found online.


State Salmon Recovery Funding Board Approves Funding for Nearly $18 Million in Salmon Habitat Restoration Projects

The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) recently awarded nearly $18 million in grants for projects to protect and restore salmon habitat around the state. The majority of the funded projects will benefit Chinook salmon, which make up a large part of the southern resident orca whale diet.

In WRIA 8, a $200,000 SRFB grant was approved for the Willowmoor Floodplain Restoration project located on the Sammamish River. The Willowmoor project will eventually reconnect the Sammamish River to the adjacent floodplain and wetlands and will construct a floodplain side channel to restore rearing habitat.

Also approved was an $800,000 funding recommendation for the Meadowdale Beach Park and Estuary Restoration Project. This project will re-establish and connect a historic 1.3-acre pocket estuary in Meadowdale Beach Park to Puget Sound. The project involves replacing a culvert under the BNSF railroad with a bridge, removing fill and shoreline armoring, and placing wood for salmon habitat. Of the $800,000 approved, $608,289 awaits legislative appropriation for the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration (PSAR) program in the upcoming state legislative session.

Finally, the Board also approved a list of PSAR Large Capital Projects, which included the Riverbend Floodplain Restoration Project on the Cedar River. This project intends to reconnect over 50 acres of floodplain to the river via side channels and backwater channels and will significantly enhance rearing habitat for Chinook salmon and other salmon species on the Cedar. As with the Meadowdale project, fully funding the $5.9 million request for Riverbend requires funding to be appropriated by the state legislature for the PSAR program in the upcoming state capital budget.


Kokanee Cam — Catch a Live View of Kokanee in Ebright Creek

King County has partnered with the Bellevue-Issaquah Chapter of Trout Unlimited and a private landowner to provide an underwater live stream of Ebright Creek, an eastern tributary of Lake Sammamish, in hopes of catching sight of spawning kokanee salmon. Check out the kokanee cam and send a tweet through the website if you see any fish! You can also watch previously recorded footage of Kokanee on nearby Laughing Jacobs Creek captured by Nils Cowan. These kokanee were born three or four years ago in the nearby creeks, and since then have lived only in Lake Sammamish as they grew into 12-16 inch-long spawners. These fish are survivors! They have toughed it out through recent conditions in Lake Sammamish that are believed to have decimated the last two kokanee returns and put this kokanee population closer to extinction than ever before.


Historical Perspective on the Sammamish River

King County's September Streams Monitor focuses on the Sammamish River. Before the Sammamish River was straightened during an Army Corps and King County dredging project in 1964, the river, known as the Sammamish Slough, was a narrow meandering channel. Originally home to native tribes, the slough and surrounding wetland area were gradually cleared to improve navigation and open up land for agriculture. Over the years, the slough has served multiple uses: in the early 20th century, steamboats transported people from Bothell to Lake Washington and Seattle via the Sammamish River. From 1934-1976 there was an annual boat race on the river, dubbed by one reporter as the "crookedest race in the world and the most exciting," as well as waterski races. Today, King County and others are designing the Willowmoor Floodplain Restoration Project in the transition zone between the Sammamish River and Lake Washington in Marymoor Park to improve habitat while also addressing maintenance and flood control issues.


Orca Update

Photo: NOAA Fisheries

The critically endangered Southern Resident orca populations returned to Central Puget Sound in November and early December, providing local residents with numerous viewing opportunities. Despite the playful nature of their leaps and breaches, the orcas are headed into the lean winter season, with some looking even thinner than they were before the summer/fall Chinook foraging season.

In an ongoing search for answers about the biggest threats to Southern Resident orcas, Lynda Mapes of the Seattle Times looked to the Northern Resident Killer Whales to see how they compare to the declining Southern Resident Killer Whales. The Northern Residents are the same animal and eat the same diet, but live in cleaner and quieter northern waters with more diverse salmon runs to choose from. This combination has allowed them to flourish, more than doubling in population since 1974, while the Southern Residents are struggling to find enough to eat and reproduce.

On November 16, the Orca Task Force issued a package of 36 recommendations in an effort to save the critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. These actions focus on increasing Chinook runs, decreasing noise from vessels, reducing exposure to contaminants, and ensuring sustainable funding for the recommendations. The recommendations include a limited-entry permit system to manage commercial whale-watching, increasing the spill of water through the Columbia and Snake River dams, increasing investment in restoring critical Chinook habitat areas, better enforcement of existing regulations, and increases in hatchery fish production. Governor Inslee is currently reviewing the recommendations, some of which would require legislation.

Following the recommendations, the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) submitted a budget request of $90 million, to accelerate DNR's work in protecting and restoring aquatic resources. Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz is committed to doubling down on restoration projects to protect salmon, the primary prey of Southern Resident orcas. Franz recently highlighted the Bird Island Shoreline Enhancement project at Gene Coulon Park in Renton as an example of what DNR's restoration dollars can do. Near the mouth of the Cedar River, DNR removed rock and concrete debris from the shoreline of Bird Island, creating rearing and refuge habitat for juvenile Chinook salmon on their way out to Puget Sound. The Bird Island project received additional funding from a WRIA 8 Cooperative Watershed Management grant.

In late November, the Suquamish, Swinomish, Lummi, and Tulalip Nations testified before Canada's National Energy Board in Victoria, B.C. during hearings as part of the Board's reconsideration of an expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The 700 mile Pipeline would triple the capacity for moving oil across Canada and increase tanker traffic from about 60 to more than 400 vessels annually through the Salish Sea, a critical feeding area for endangered orcas. The Board originally failed to consult with First Nations or consider the impacts of the project on orcas and the marine environment. In their testimony, the tribes spoke of Tahlequah, the Southern Resident whale who carried her dead calf for 17 days in July 2018 and shared cultural teachings about the importance of orcas, salmon, and tribal treaty fishing rights.


Pre-Order Your Native Plants for 2019 King Conservation District Native Bareroot Plant Sale

Native plants thrive in our local environmental conditions and require less maintenance and water. King Conservation District (KCD) offers a variety of native trees and shrubs for conservation purposes for purchase online with a pick up date of March 16, 2019 at Renton Community Center. The majority of the plants offered are bareroot stock which means they do not come in pots or burlap bags, but are harvested from the field in winter when the plants are dormant and ready to be replanted. Bareroot plants are affordable, hardy, have well-developed roots, and are easy to handle, transport and plant.


New Salmon Mural in Lake City Neighborhood, Seattle

NOAA Fisheries' West Coast Region, Lake City Young Leaders, and the Pacific Northwest College of Art partnered to paint a new salmon mural in the Lake City Neighborhood of Seattle. The mural, designed by Esteban Camacho Steffensen, depicts the biodiversity of Puget Sound and the importance of protecting watersheds from toxic runoff. Stop by and check out the mural at 12705 30th Ave NE in Seattle.



King Conservation District Launches Tree Canopy Planner Tool for Cities

As part of the South King County Tree Canopy Assessment Initiative, King Conservation District (KCD) developed software that displays tree canopy data in maps and supports analysis and modeling. This web-based tool helps cities and communities view, plan, and grow their urban tree canopy.


Funding opportunities

NOAA Coastal and Marine Habitat Restoration Grants
This grant program supports habitat restoration projects that use an ecosystem-based approach to foster species recovery and increase populations under NOAA's jurisdiction, such as salmon and steelhead. Pre-proposals are due January 14, 2019 and full proposals are due in April 2019. More information can be found on NOAA's grant website.

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Fiver Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grants
The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grant program seeks to develop community capacity to sustain local natural resources for future generations by providing modest financial assistance to diverse local partnerships focused on improving water quality, watersheds and the species and habitats they support. The maximum grant award size is $50,000. Proposals are due January 31, 2019 and more information can be found on the NFWF grant page.

Coastal Protection Fund — Terry Husseman Account (THA) Grants
The Terry Husseman Account (THA) grant program supports locally sponsored projects that restore or enhance the natural environment. Typical projects address water quality issues and fish and wildlife habitat protection or enhancement in or adjacent to waters of the state, such as streams, lakes, wetlands, or the ocean. Grant awards are up to a maximum of $50,000. Applications are due February 4, 2019 and more information can be found on the THA website.

EPA Environmental Justice Small Grants
The Environmental Justice Small Grants (EJSG) program awards grants that support community-driven projects designed to engage, educate, and empower communities to better understand local environmental and public health issues and develop strategies for addressing those issues, building consensus in the community, and setting community priorities. The grants are limited to $30,000 per award. Proposals are due February 15 and there are several conference call opportunities in January to ask questions. More information is available on the EPA EJSG website.

WaterWorks Grant Program
WaterWorks provides funding for projects that improve water quality in the service area for King County's regional wastewater system. Applications for the grant program will be available on January 4, 2019, with pre-applications due on March 6, 2019. More information can be found on the King County WaterWorks website.


Workshops and Conferences

ECONet Summit: Climate Resiliency for a Diverse Puget Sound — January 26, 2019
Join fellow environmental education, communication and outreach professionals throughout King County for a day of networking and learning! The theme for the 2019 ECONet Summit is Climate Resiliency for a Diverse Puget Sound. The Summit will be held on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at the South Seattle College Georgetown Campus. Register for free via Eventbrite.

Save the Date — 2019 Salmon Recovery Conference April 8-9, 2019
The biennial Salmon Recovery Conference, which hosts around 800 attendees, more than 200 presenters, and 50 exhibitors, will be held in Tacoma on April 8-9, 2019. The call for abstracts extends through January 31, 2019 and early registration starts on January 4, 2019. This year's conference marks the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Salmon Recovery Act in Washington State.

Salmon Ocean Ecology in a Changing Climate — May 28-20, 2019
The second International Year of the Salmon Workshop on "Salmon Ocean Ecology in a Changing Climate" will be held in Portland, OR on May 18-20, 2019. Hosted by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, the workshop will bring together scientists, managers and other stakeholders to consider the current status and future of salmon and their habitats for the conservation of anadromous populations in a changing world. Abstract submissions are due January 15 and registration opens in early March, 2019.


Salmon in the news

From skiing to salmon runs, the national climate report predicts a Northwest in peril
The U.S. Global Change Research Program recently released a comprehensive evaluation of the effects of climate change to date in the U.S., focusing on the economy, human, health, agriculture, and the environment. The report warns that under a high emissions future, salmon are projected to lose 22% of their habitat by late century due to increased stream temperatures, corresponding to more than $3 billion in economic losses. In addition to temperature, salmon are likely to see increased mortality from increased winter streamflow, decreased summer flow, increased winter storm intensity and sediment loading, ocean acidification, and loss of nearshore and estuarine habitat.

Chinook Salmon Return to Thornton Creek After an Eight-year Absence
For the first time in eight years, Chinook salmon were seen spawning in Thornton Creek, an urban creek in the Meadowbrook neighborhood of Seattle. The fish spawned at a recently completed Seattle Public Utilities' habitat restoration and flood control site. While the presence of spawning is a good sign, the creek still has room for habitat and water quality improvement.

Lean prey in warm ocean years leaves forage fish hungry
A 2018 study compared the stomach contents of forage fish, such as anchovy, sardine, herring, and smelt, during years with unusually warm ocean temperatures to years with relatively cool ocean temperatures. The study found that in recent warm years, such as 2015 and 2016, the forage fish consumed a higher proportion of low-energy gelatinous plankton, indicating a lack of their preferred higher energy crustaceans. As a result of the less-preferred diet, the fish were smaller and in poorer condition. Scientists are still researching the impact of the smaller forage fish in warmer years on the rest of the food chain, including salmon and orcas.

Restoring side channels can boost salmon recovery in Puget Sound rivers, new research finds
Researchers have concluded that side channel habitat improvements are one of the most effective ways to recover threatened Chinook salmon. Side channels create a buffer during flooding conditions, letting the water spread out and slow down, creating less of an impact on juvenile Chinook.



Chinook salmon (also known as king salmon) are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In WRIA 8, citizens, scientists, businesses, environmental and community organizations, and local, state and federal governments are cooperating on protection and restoration projects and have developed a science-based plan to conserve salmon today and for future generations. Funding for the salmon conservation plan is provided by 28 local governments in the watershed. For more information visit our website at www.govlink.org/watersheds/8/.

If you would like to submit an item for inclusion in the next WRIA 8 e-newsletter, please email lwest@kingcounty.gov.