Planners propose 11 projects to restore chinook, kokanee habitat
August 23, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
Creeks leading to Lake Sammamish could serve as staging areas in the years ahead for a bold plan to restore salmon habitat.
The regional Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group has proposed 11 projects in Issaquah and Sammamish to restore habitat for chinook salmon — a species protected under the Endangered Species Act — and dwindling Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon.
The once-abundant kokanee has declined in recent decades, perhaps due to construction near creeks, increased predators, disease or changes in water quality. Scientists estimated the total 2010 run at 58 fish, including the 40 kokanee spawned at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery in a last-ditch effort to save the species.
The proposed projects range from colossal — such as rerouting Laughing Jacobs Creek through Lake Sammamish State Park — to small — adding plants in the Lewis Creek delta, for instance.
The intention is to implement the projects by 2016 — a bold goal considering local governments’ lean budgets in recent years. In the meantime, the kokanee team is encouraging local leaders and landowners to design, apply for grants and prioritize the projects as soon as possible.
Proposed restoration projects
The regional Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group has proposed 11 projects in Issaquah and Sammamish to restore habitat for chinook and Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon.
A. Lewis Creek: delta restoration
Restore the natural shoreline by regrading the beach to a shallower slope, and adding a combination of buffers and plantings to retain finer sand.
B. Lewis Creek: gabion reach stabilization
Creating a weir-and-pool formation in the channel to dissipate hydraulic energy, and install wood at the toe of the wall to prevent failure.
C. Lewis Creek: trash rack odification
Redesign the trash rack to reduce the accumulation of debris and sediment blocking the culvert intake and causing impounded water.
D. Ebright Creek: wetland enhancement
Install wood and other natural features to consolidate flows through the Pereyra Wetland and create a single, defined channel.
E. Ebright Creek: fish passage restoration
Remove a fish-blocking pipe culvert and add a larger concrete box culvert to allow upstream migrating kokanee to access spawning habitat.
F. Zaccuse Creek: trail culvert removal
Remove the pipe culvert under the East Lake Sammamish Trail and add a footbridge to extend exposed areas of the creek.
G. Laughing Jacobs Creek: Lake Sammamish State Park channel reroute
Create a new stream channel, including bed, bank and riparian zone, through the Lake Sammamish State Park wetland area south of the boat launch.
H. Laughing Jacobs Creek: Hans Jensen habitat enhancement
Enhance the existing stream channel by installing pool-forming structures, bank-softening measures and additional spawning gravel, as well as reroute the reach downstream of the footbridge.
I. Issaquah Creek: Cybil-Madeleine Park habitat enhancement
Regrade banks to a gentler slope, add large pieces of wood and other pool-forming features, and create side-channel habitat.
J. East Fork of Issaquah Creek: confluence restoration
Remove armoring and regrade the right bank to a lower angled slope to increase connection to floodplain. Add large wood pieces to the channel to create pool habitat and plant riparian species on the banks. Excavate gravel from the confluence and redistribute upstream to encourage kokanee and chinook spawning.
K. East Fork of Issaquah Creek: Third Avenue Northeast and Northeast Creek Street habitat enhancement
Install a log weir to create a plunge pool to dissipate the energy of high flows and help prevent scouring of spawning gravels downstream. Remove bank armoring and regrade the slope to add flood storage capacity.
The list does not include some major projects on purpose, due to the enormous time and funding commitments required. The omitted items include a culvert beneath Interstate 90 — a barrier to upstream passage into upper Lewis Creek — and culverts on George Davis and Zaccuse creeks.
The kokanee team released the project list as local environmentalists and elected leaders await a decision on endangered status for Lake Sammamish kokanee. The decision from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is due before the end of the year.
Salmon prompt cooperation
The restoration effort is also meant to encourage local governments, landowners and environmentalists to cooperate to restore the salmon species.
“People are trying to do the right thing without a regulatory hammer,” said Hans Berge, a county environmental scientist and a Lake Sammamish kokanee expert. “We’re trying to develop the carrot, but we don’t have a hammer yet and we don’t really have a carrot, but nevertheless, these jurisdictions are all working really well together and trying to support one another in making these things move forward.”
Lake Sammamish tributary streams serve as crucial spawning habitat for chinook, kokanee and other salmon species. Construction along the creeks and pollution from storm water runoff create threats to adult salmon, fry and eggs.
“Especially for kokanee and chinook, the focus is really on that egg-to-migrant survival, so getting them out of the creek into the lake safely is where the focus is across the board,” Berge said.
The group used funding from the King Conservation District to complete the list. Securing dollars to examine kokanee restoration projects requires some creativity.
“Kokanee, since they’re not listed as threatened, they don’t have the eligibility for a lot of the funding sources, like the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, for example,” Berge said. “If we can do projects that benefit chinook that also have benefits for kokanee, then that’s the win-win situation.”
So, a kokanee-centric list of possible restoration projects might appear much different than the combined proposal.
Stopgap measure continues
Local environmental groups, governments and the Snoqualmie Tribe petitioned in 2007 to list the landlocked salmon species as endangered.
If the Fish & Wildlife Service lists a species as endangered, biologists create rules to protect the animal from human interference, designate critical habitat and joins state agencies, local governments and nonprofit organizations to increase the species’ chance of survival.
Teams collected adult kokanee from the streams in 2009 and last year. The agencies combined efforts to spawn the fish at the Issaquah hatchery, and then rear the eggs to fry at the Issaquah hatchery and the Quilcene National Fish Hatchery on the Olympic Peninsula.
The stopgap measure encompasses the Fish & Wildlife Service, state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and King County.
In the meantime, planners identified the possible projects to boost the potential for the species’ long-term survival.
“We need to make sure that these habitat projects happen sooner rather than later, while we still have the supplementation program to help us support it and get it started,” Berge said.
Susan Zemek, communications manager for the Puget Sound Partnership — a state agency leading the cleanup of the sound — said restoring habitat along Lake Sammamish is a smart decision.
“Issaquah Creek is listed in the recovery plans for the area as something that has got relatively high-quality habitat and relatively high fish use,” she said. “These are areas that are high priorities for protection.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.