City accepts NOAA grant for fish passage

September 14, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration could not fund the entire $3 million cost for a proposed fish passage near the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, the federal agency has agreed to grant $172,375 to design and permit the project.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife — the hatchery owner and operator — has agreed to match the NOAA grant, bringing the total to $344,750.

City Council members accepted the NOAA grant Sept. 7; the state money must be handled through a separate process.

Plans call for the aging dam upstream from the hatchery to be demolished and replaced by a series of boulder weirs in Issaquah Creek. The project also includes replacement of the water-supply intake from the creek to the hatchery.

Built in the 1930s and overhauled in the 1960s, the dam acts as a barrier for salmon and other fish to 11 miles of Issaquah Creek and tributary habitat upstream. Many adult salmon become marooned and die each year when the fish jump onto the shelf-like concrete apron at the base of the dam.

“While some fish get past, most of them get beached on the shelf that’s part of the dam,” Gestin Suttle, executive director of the nonprofit Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, said after the council accepted the grant.

The total cost to design, permit and construct the weir and intake could reach $4 million. The city applied for a $3 million grant in November 2009. In late August, NOAA informed the city about the grant allocation.

The agency only funds construction for projects after design and permitting has been completed. Issaquah officials agreed to accept the grant money to complete design in order to make the project “shovel ready” and eligible for future NOAA dollars.

“We’re going to be in a much better position,” city Surface Water Manager Kerry Ritland said.

The city has received grant dollars to design the updated fish passage piecemeal.

Issaquah received a $400,000 Salmon Recovery Funding Board grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office in March 2008. The city, state Department of Fish and Wildlife, local agencies and FISH provided the required 15 percent match for the grant.

In addition to the dam blocking salmon from reaching upstream habitat, the hatchery has also had problems related to the intake.

Nearly 200,000 coho salmon died at the hatchery in November 2006 after leaves blocked the intake, cutting water flow to the hatchery and causing the water’s dissolved-oxygen content to fall too low for the number of fish in the pond.

The updated intake design includes airburst systems to remove debris from the intake screens, plus measures to limit the amount of sediment flowing into the hatchery.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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One Response to “City accepts NOAA grant for fish passage”

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