October 2019 Newsletter
Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed
Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 8

Celebrating Restoration of Bird Island Shoreline in South Lake Washington

On October 8, WRIA 8 Salmon Recovery Council members Mark Phillips and Ryan McIrvin joined Hillary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, to tour and celebrate the Bird Island Shoreline Enhancement project in Gene Coulon Park at the southern end of Lake Washington. The southern shores of Lake Washington, near the mouth of the Cedar River, are an important area where the young salmon rest, eat, and grow before moving out through the Ballard Locks and into Puget Sound. Because much of the shoreline on Lake Washington is developed with hard bulkheads, areas of natural shallow shoreline are few and far between. In 2017, the State Department of Natural Resources completed habitat restoration work at Bird Island, which removed over 100 tons of concrete and metal debris from the shoreline, enhanced over 25,500 feet of shoreline, planted over 2,600 native plants and trees, and improved a boardwalk and educational signage to highlight the area's cultural and environmental importance. WRIA 8 directed Cooperative Watershed Management grant funding to support the shoreline enhancement portion of the project.

WRIA 8 Partners and Congressional Staff tour dewatered Ballard Locks

Over 25 WRIA 8 partners and Congressional staff from Sen. Cantwell, Rep. Jayapal, and Rep. DelBene's offices toured the dewatered Ballard Locks yesterday afternoon with the Army Corps of Engineers. Seeing the Locks dewatered is impressive, but what made this tour unique was being able to see the replacement of the 102 year old large lock filling culvert valves, gates, and machinery currently under construction. This was the highest priority project on the Army Corps of Engineers' prioritized list of facility improvement projects they developed in 2012. Replacement of large lock filling culvert valves, gates, and machinery was also the highest priority project for fish passage at the Locks. The improvements will allow the large lock to be filled at variable speeds, reducing the potential for salmon to be sucked into the filling culverts and scraped along the barnacle-encrusted sidewalls. WRIA 8 was part of the coalition of stakeholders who advocated to Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and members of Congress in 2018 to secure a $13 million appropriation for this work.

The tour also included seeing the real-time replacement of the emergency closure crane and the new smolt slides up close, which have been removed for the season.

The Corps emphasized that while it is great the large lock filling culvert valves, gates, and machinery are being replaced, there are several additional unfunded priority facility repairs, including:

The Corps has received funding to advance designs for these additional projects, which positions them for construction funding in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. These construction funding needs are priority WRIA 8 federal legislative priorities, with emphasis on repairing or replacing the saltwater drain intake and fish exclusion structure.

Check Out Salmon SEEson Sites Near You

The 13th annual Salmon SEEson program runs through November, so make sure to get out and look for salmon swimming upstream to spawn. November weekend events include tours at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, events at Piper's Creek at Carkeek Park, and self-guided options at many other sites. Check out our Salmon SEEson website for more information on viewing locations.

Salmon Numbers in WRIA 8 Indicate Continued Low Returns for all Species and the Poorest Sockeye Return on Record

Annual counting of adult salmon returning to WRIA 8 through the Ballard Locks are conducted from June 12th through October 2nd each year by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe Fisheries Division. These counts capture most of the Chinook, sockeye and coho salmon migrating into our watershed to begin the freshwater chapter of their spawning journey to their natal streams. Returns continue to be low for all three species, and this year's sockeye returns were the poorest on record. The following totals have been reported (these data are preliminary and may be revised):

Species 2019 Count % of 10-year average return
Chinook 5,934 77%
Sockeye 17,411 20%
Coho 12,874 84%

The salmon are now making their way up rivers and streams in our watershed. Biologists have begun annual spawning ground surveys and estimates of the number of spawning adults will be available later this fall.

Young Kokanee Salmon Released into Lake Sammamish to Try and Increase Their Survival

Photo: Eli Brownell

On October 10, local government, tribal, and community partners released 3,000 juvenile kokanee salmon into Lake Sammamish as part of emergency measures to improve chances of their survival. Representatives from the Snoqualmie Tribe conducted a ceremonial release of the first fish from a canoe on the lake. The release of the juvenile fish is one of several emergency actions kokanee recovery partners are taking to improve the survival of the Lake Sammamish kokanee population, which has experienced severe decline in recent years. Read more about the release event and kokanee recovery efforts.

Designation of Critical Salmon Habitat for Southern Resident Killer Whales

NOAA Fisheries is accepting comments on a proposed rule to revise the designation of critical habitat for Southern Resident Killer Whales under the Endangered Species Act. Comments will be accepted through December 18, 2019. The rule proposes to expand the whales' critical habitat designation, which is currently limited to inland waters of Washington, to include an additional approximately 15,627 square miles of occupied marine waters off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California.

EarthCorps' Blue Carbon film

EarthCorps and Restore America's Estuaries (RAE) teamed up to study coastal wetlands, estuaries, and tidal marshes, and highlighted their findings in the film Blue Carbon. They found that coastal wetlands store carbon in the ground at a rate of up to 10 times faster than a mature forest and that losing 2.5 acres of coastal wetlands is the same as losing 25-100 acres of native forests. While the U.S. is currently losing coastal wetlands faster than we are restoring them, U.S. Senator Cory Booker recently introduced the Climate Stewardship Act, which would provide funding to restore 1.5 million acres of wetlands over 10 years.

King Conservation District Proposes New Five Year Program of Work and Funding Plan

Over the past year, King Conservation District (KCD) has developed a proposed work plan to guide the focus of their work and programs in 2020-2024. The KCD manages programs that work with private landowners to implement conservation practices on their property, including stewardship of farmland, riparian areas, marine shorelines, and urban and rural forests. The King County Council is currently considering KCD's proposal. Learn more about the proposed program of work and opportunities to support KCD's proposal.

Funding opportunities

Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service, State and Private Forestry, and Cooperative Forestry staff, are requesting applications for the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program. The purpose of the program is to establish community forests by protecting forest land from conversion to non-forest uses and provide community benefits such as sustainable forest management, environmental benefits including clean air, water, and wildlife habitat; benefits from forest-based educational programs; benefits from serving as models of effective forest stewardship; and recreational benefits secured with public access. Applications are due January 6, 2020.

Events, Workshops, and Conferences

Streamside Living Workshop — November 2 in Woodinville
Snohomish County Public Works is hosting a workshop on November 2nd at the Brightwater Education Center for streamside landowners. This workshop is for you if you want to plan a project in or near the water, attract birds or other wildlife, or manage invasive species. Please register online.

University of Washington Bothell Pub Night Talks
The Mysterious "Snerka:" the Curious History, Current Status and Future Prospects of Local Kokanee

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Anderson School - Haynes' Hall
6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. program
Free, All ages welcome

Native kokanee salmon were once the most common salmon in Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish. Today, native kokanee have been reduced to a small population in Lake Sammamish… or have they? This talk will explore the origins of salmon in the Lake Washington basin, prospects for restoration of native kokanee and the mystery of the "snerka."

The University of Washington Bothell is partnering with McMenamins History Department to present Pub Night Talks — a monthly series of talks by experts from UW Bothell and around the local community.

These talks are held the last Tuesday evening of each month at McMenamins Anderson School in downtown Bothell. Doors open at 6 pm. Talks begin at 7 p.m. and are followed by Q&A.

All talks are free and open to the public. All ages welcome!

All seating is first come, first served.

Salmon in the news

New marine heat wave resembles killer 'Blob' that devastated sea life on West Coast, NOAA says
A new mass of warm water has formed off the West Coast, similar to 'The Blob' that formed in 2014 and peaked in 2015, negatively impacting sea life and salmon runs. NOAA reports that Washington is already seeing a widespread harmful algae bloom that could be related to the warm water mass. The blob could break up with shifting weather patterns and the impact is yet to be determined.

Washington state experiments with buyouts, restoring floodplains to avoid future disasters
Moving people out of flood prone areas is a strategy that has been used to enable floodplain restoration

Dangerous new hot zones are spreading around the world
Scientists tracking ocean temperatures are seeing certain areas heating up much faster than others with shifting currents. Warming temperatures can wreak havoc on marine life and the communities that rely on the species that have been impacted. The Washington Post found that roughly 10% of the globe has already warmed by more than 2 degrees Celsius, when the last five years are compared with the mid- to late 1800s and about 20% has warmed by 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Columbia River Basin salmon survival at risk with warming waters and dams
The population of spawning salmon in the Columbia River Basin is declining, where thirteen species of salmon and steelhead trout are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Climate change is making the water in the ocean and rivers and streams where the salmon live warmer contributing to the decline. At the same time, a series of dams is also making salmon migration more challenging.

Spring Chinook hold a unique place in the ecosystem
Spring and fall Chinook salmon were thought to be alike until researchers discovered a gene for early migration. The Chinook salmon that used to return in the spring after the snowpack melted have become rare in Puget Sound due to habitat destruction resulting from human settlement. Now, federal biologists and legal experts are struggling to decide if spring Chinook should be granted their own legal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Are the orcas starving? Scientists say it's not that simple
The reported deaths of three more Southern Resident orcas in early August have brought renewed urgency to efforts to save the critically endangered population of whales. Many scientists and policymakers are focusing on the orcas' access to their main source of food, the Chinook salmon. Some members of the Southern Resident orca population are appearing dangerously thin and malnourished. But is the drop in their numbers the result of a lack of Chinook? It is an increasing matter of debate among scientists.

Salmon-Safe Recognizes Port's Work to Improve Puget Sound's Water Quality
The Port of Seattle's maritime parks and public access areas have been awarded recertification by Portland-based environmental certification nonprofit Salmon-Safe. The award was made based on key actions the Port has taken to protect Puget Sound water quality, including updating the Port's Landscape Management Guidelines to further reduce use of fertilizers, implementing a water conservation plan, assessing additional system-wide opportunities for stormwater treatment and habitat restoration, and installing stormwater treatment and habitat restoration projects on a number of Port properties.

Chasing a Memory: In California, orcas and salmon have become so scarce people have forgotten what once was. Will the Northwest be next?
Increasing elevated water temperatures are putting survival of salmon in California at risk, and there are concerns that similar trends in Puget Sound water temperatures will have a similar effect on Puget Sound salmon, the primary prey for the endangered Southern Resident orca.

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 Jason.Mulvihill-Kuntz@kingcounty.gov.