August 2019 Newsletter
Snoqualmie Watershed Forum

Status of Salmon

Fewer adult salmon are returning to the Snohomish Basin (WRIA 7) to spawn than ever before. 2018 was another poor year for Chinook. 64,000 spawners are needed to meet recovery goals and feed the declining Southern Resident Orcas. Steelhead spawners have also declined in 2017 and 2018. However, 2017 and 2018 saw record numbers of young Chinook swimming down the Snoqualmie River towards Puget Sound! Recent efforts to increase the quality of freshwater habitat may be helping, but we are well below our target of 1.3 million juvenile Chinook and need to accelerate the pace of restoration to make up for past, current, and future impacts. For more information, check out this Status of Salmon infographic.

How do you solve a problem like knotweed?

Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center is holding site tours and gatherings this summer to discuss invasive knotweed, its impacts, and control methods being used by Oxbow Center, King County, and partner organizations. The gatherings will be held on Wednesday August 21st from 7:00-8:30 p.m. and Tuesday August 27th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center, 10819 Carnation-Duvall Rd. NE, Carnation, WA 98014. Contact if your group would like to set up a talk or tour.

Master Native Plant Stewardship Training Program

Sign up for the Master Native Plant Stewardship Program in Sammamish! Participants will receive 100 hours of classroom and field training and commit to work for one year on a forest restoration team project. Training includes plant biology and identification, Puget Lowland habitat ecology, restoration techniques and site design, project leadership and outreach techniques. Applications are due August 8th and trainings will be held on Fridays and Saturdays this fall.

Water Quality during Summer Floating Season near Fall City

Each summer thousands of recreational users descend on the Snoqualmie River between Snoqualmie Falls and Fall City to float, wade, and swim prompting concern about public health risks to humans and water quality impacts to the river. King County investigated water quality in this area to determine the amount and sources of fecal bacteria. All samples from the river were below state standards for fecal coliform and E. coli, limiting public health concerns. The most significant source of fecal bacteria appeared to be from tributaries, especially those with beaver ponds, while contributions from recreational users appeared minimal.

[Video] Tulalip Tribes' Smolt Trap

Smolt traps provide critical data on population numbers and survival trends of threatened Chinook salmon from the Snohomish River Basin. The Tulalip Tribes use these data to inform recovery actions, improve harvest management modeling, and monitor the progress of ecological health in the basin.

Fish Barriers to be Removed in Carnation

The Snoqualmie Valley Watershed Improvement District (SVWID) has received funding from the Fish Barrier Removal Board (FBRB) for designs to replace a culvert that is a barrier to fish passage at the crossing of Langlois Creek and the Snoqualmie Valley Trail in Carnation. This project aims to improve floodplain conditions, restore access to approximately 5.6 miles of essential upstream rearing and spawning habitat for salmon, and improve drainage in order to increase farmable acreage in the Snoqualmie Valley. The SVWID will apply for funding for construction of this project in 2021. Three additional fish barrier culverts will be replaced upstream on Langlois Creek in 2021 with funding from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Fish, Farm, and Flood — Snoqualmie Valley Buffer Task Force Update

Through a collaborative 3-year process culminating in 2017, the Snoqualmie Valley Fish, Farm, Flood Advisory Committee, a stakeholder group initiated by King County, unanimously agreed to a set of recommendations that, if implemented, would significantly improve ecological function and habitat quality, strengthen the agricultural economy, and reduce flood risk in the Valley. To assist in accomplishing implementation of the recommendations, three task forces were formed to focus on riparian buffers, regulatory issues, and agricultural land resource strategic planning. The Buffer Task Force aims to develop a set of voluntary riparian planting recommendations for the Snoqualmie Valley Agriculture Production District that are scientifically credible, context-sensitive, and locally derived by the end of 2019. The Task Force is considering the needs of fish and agriculture as they develop these recommendations. The FFF Implementation Oversight Committee, convened in 2018, will review and finalize the recommendations for the County Executive. Stay tuned for updates on the Regulatory Task Force and Agricultural Land Resource Strategic Plan Task Force in upcoming e-newsletters!

New Trail Connections from Snoqualmie Valley Trail

New trail connections from Snoqualmie Valley Trail to Tollgate Farm Park and Meadowbrook Farm are now open to the public. These connections greatly improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, eliminating the need to travel along the busy SR-202. The gravel surface trails meander through lush meadows with expansive views of the surrounding Cascade Mountains and provide new loop options for residents and visitors alike. These projects were a collaborative effort between Si View Metro Parks, City of North Bend, and Meadowbrook Farm Association, with financial support from King County Parks.

Photo: Sean McDonald, WSG

Working Together to Keep Invasive Crab Species at Bay in the Salish Sea

As shown in this story map, volunteers, tribes, and federal and state agencies are working together to stop an invasion of the European green crab in Puget Sound. These groups are actively surveying local sites and trapping and removing any green crabs they find. European green crabs pose a risk to marine and inland habitats and native ecosystems, as they compete with and prey on native species and cause physical damage to sensitive habitats, such as eelgrass beds and salt marshes.

New NOAA Report Details Salmon Vulnerability to Climate Change

NOAA Fisheries recently published a new report assessing Pacific salmon's vulnerability to changing climate and ocean conditions. Some of the greatest risks to Puget Sound Chinook occur during egg incubation, when they are vulnerable to high mortality due to increased flooding and variability in seasonal flow. Increasing stream temperatures is another risk, resulting in an increase in pre-spawn mortality. Estuary habitat has the potential to be damaged by sea level rise and ocean conditions of upwelling and currents can reduce the number of adults returning to spawn. Exposure to contaminants, hatchery management, and loss of habitat to development also directly harm Puget Sound Chinook. Overall, Puget Sound Chinook were ranked high in overall vulnerability as well as high in adaptive capacity due to their high expression of life history variation; in other words, different individual fish use different habitats at many different stages in life.

Salmon in the news

The river runs alarmingly low in North Bend, due east of Seattle
The Snoqualmie River is currently flowing at about half of its normal flow, posing potential problems for migrating salmon later this summer and fall as well as developers in the City of North Bend, who aren't able to obtain water permits when the River reaches low flows.

The great salmon mystery: Scientists go to unprecedented lengths to find out where chinook go
Scientists are using receivers, tags, and satellites to track a few hundred salmon off the coast of Washington to better understand the movement of salmon and the endangered southern resident orcas. Previous tracking methods have required the tagged fish to be caught and left a gap in data from the time the fish was tagged to when it was caught.

Research charts tiny zooplankton's large impact on ocean health
University of Washington researchers are studying the response of zooplankton in Puget Sound to changing environmental conditions to predict larger ecosystem trends. Zooplankton are near the bottom of the food chain, and are sought out by salmon and other marine life.

Saving our salmon: Searching for answers in the depths of Puget Sound
King County Environmental Laboratory is also sampling for zooplankton as part of their bimonthly marine surveys, to investigate all possible causes of Chinook salmon decline.

An indigenous tribe in Washington is strategically placing beavers around to help salmon
The Tulalip Tribes have been leading beaver relocation and restoration work in Washington since 2014. Beaver dams create complex habitat, including deep pools, side channels, and backwaters that baby salmon need to rest and hide from predators. The presence of beaver dams also keeps streams hydrated later into the dry season and cools water temperatures, features that are increasingly important in adapting to a warmer climate. Previously prohibited from relocating beavers to Western Washington under the old beaver bill, non-tribal groups are now allowed to join Tribes in relocating beavers west of the cascades as the result of a 2017 beaver bill update.

Op-Eds about Orcas and Salmon

Restoring salmon runs, not politics, will save southern resident killer whales
Ken Balcomb, a member of the Governor's Orca Task Force and researcher of the southern residents since 1976, calls for the recovery of natural wild runs of Chinook as soon as possible.

Flush with cash, WA should invest in orcas now
Jacques White, Mindy Roberts, and Joe Gaydos, members of the Governor's Orca Task Force, reflect on the Task Force's accomplishments so far and urge for more action on the 36 recommendations that came out of the Task Force. The members highlight that local salmon recovery councils across Washington have only received less than a fifth of what is necessary to recover salmon over the past decade and now is the time to invest more.

How the great outdoors, and great cities can coexist in our Pacific Northwest
Gene Duvernoy, CEO Emeritus of Forterra, lays out a strategy to protect the Pacific Northwest's sacred natural places and needed working places, as well as prioritize communities.

And, as always, remember that the beautiful "From Mt. Si to Wild Sky" watershed posters — featuring the photography of talented Valley residents — are available FREE from Laura West or by calling (206) 477-7574.

The Snoqualmie Watershed Forum works to protect and restore the health of the SF Skykomish and Snoqualmie Watersheds in harmony with the cultural and community needs of the Valley.

If you would like to be added or removed from the Snoqualmie Watershed Forum mailing list, or if you would like to submit an item for inclusion in the next Snoqualmie Watershed Forum e-newsletter, please contact Laura West.

Funding for this publication is provided by King County Flood Control District.