Why do salmon counts vary from year to year?

October 2, 2010

NEW — 1 p.m. Oct. 2, 2010

Salmon populations have booms and busts, just like the stock market. And, like the market, some salmon are experiencing a recession of sorts — some of it due to natural causes, and others because of human-related factors.

Issaquah Salmon Hatchery docents learned about salmon population trends during a training session Sept. 11 in preparation for tours and Issaquah’s biggest festival of the year, Salmon Days.

“We’re always trying to give our docents a little something extra,” said Gestin Suttle, executive director of Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. “We’re always trying to learn more about the salmon. We always get questions that delve a little deeper into conditions.”

About 50 volunteers listened as Ed Connor, an aquatic ecologist with Seattle City Light, wheeled through a PowerPoint presentation and congratulated them on their perceptive questions regarding fish.

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State closes Lake Sammamish to salmon fishing due to low coho run

September 29, 2010

UPDATED — 2:10 p.m. Sept. 30, 2010

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to close lakes Sammamish and Washington to salmon fishing, citing concerns about the limited number of coho salmon.

The salmon fishery on Lake Sammamish is closed from Saturday until Nov. 30. The closure runs from Saturday until Oct. 31 on Lake Washington.

The coho run is low and the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery may not collect enough fish to meet egg-take goals. The state said the lakes could reopen to salmon fishing if the run increases in the coming weeks.

Muckleshoot Tribe officials had counted 2,552 coho at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard by Monday.

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Frogs can be fun and help your garden

September 7, 2010

This frog was photographed on a peony in Sammamish. Frogs can be helpful in keeping a garden healthy and pest free. By Jeanine Bracco

They can be cute, slimy, freak people out, loud when you’re trying to sleep and children sometimes love to catch them.

Don’t be alarmed if frogs are in your yard — these amphibians mean that you have a healthy environment, free of pesticides and other harmful products.

“They eat insects and a lot of other smaller things that may be harmful to your garden,” said Michael Aguilar, certified professional horticulturalist and lawn and garden specialist at The Grange.

Attracting frogs into your yard can be easy; there are a few things that need to be done in order to do it. Read more

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Dozens of chinook reach Issaquah Salmon Hatchery

September 4, 2010

NEW — 10 a.m. Sept. 4, 2010

Rains and cooler temperatures prompted dozens of mighty chinook salmon to return to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery to spawn.

Hatchery workers opened the fish ladder Sept. 3 to start collecting salmon for the spawning season.

Muckleshoot Tribe officials counted more than 8,000 chinook at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard. The tribe — the official keeper of salmon counts — estimates the return to be below average this year.

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Summer weather means trips to the lake — and algae blooms

August 13, 2010

NEW — 1 p.m. Aug. 13, 2010

King County boasts more than 500 lakes — but slimy algae can turn a refreshing dip into a stinky mess.

The county Water and Land Resources Division has cataloged algae blooms in lakes Sammamish, Washington, Horseshoe, Hicks, Wilderness, Walker and Echo this summer.

Learn more about King County lake management and current algae blooms here.

Algae occur naturally in some lakes during the summer, thanks to the right mixture of ample sunlight, water temperatures and nutrients. Many algae varieties make for a nuisance, some might smell bad as they decompose and others can be harmful if swallowed by people or pets.

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Damaged Lake Sammamish data buoy placed back in service

July 27, 2010

The data-gathering buoy damaged by vandals the weekend of July 17 has been placed back into service on Lake Sammamish. Contributed

Vandals damaged a county data buoy bobbing in Lake Sammamish in mid-July, and the cash-strapped county might be unable to repair or replace damaged equipment crammed aboard the float.

King County Sheriff’s Office and county environmental officials said suspects flipped the buoy, causing a gap in the weather and water-quality information gathered by the device. County staffers do not yet know if equipment can be salvaged from the damaged buoy.

The buoy had been returned to Lake Sammamish by late last week. Though temperature and relative humidity probes had been damaged beyond repair, the buoy suffered little damage.

“We definitely dodged a bullet,” King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks spokesman Doug Williams said.

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Vandals cause $60,000 in damage to Lake Sammamish buoy

July 22, 2010

A damaged environmental buoy in Lake Sammamish floats after vandals flipped the buoy during the weekend. Contributed

NEW — 5 p.m. July 22, 2010

Vandals damaged a county data buoy bobbing in Lake Sammamish during the weekend, and the cash-strapped county might be unable to repair or replace the damaged equipment.

The suspects flipped the buoy, causing a gap in the weather and water-quality information gathered by the device. County staffers do not yet know if equipment can be salvaged from the damaged buoy. Replacement costs could reach about $60,000.

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Greenway pioneer receives top environmental honor

July 13, 2010

Mountains to Sound Greenway pioneer Ted Thomsen — “the unsung hero” behind the 101-mile greenbelt — received the highest environmental honor in Issaquah in a City Hall ceremony last week.

The late Thomsen received the Ruth Kees Award for a Sustainable Community — the prize named for the late environmentalist, a tireless advocate for open space preservation. The city selected Thomsen for the yearslong effort to establish a billboard-free greenbelt from Seattle to Central Washington along Interstate 90.

Cynthia Welti, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust executive director, nominated Thomsen for the honor.

“He was essential to bringing the greenway vision to fruition,” she recalled in the nomination. “Ted is the unsung hero of the launch of this tremendous coalition effort.”

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City picks architect for downtown parks

June 1, 2010

The landscape architect behind Warren G. Magnuson and Cal Anderson parks in Seattle has been picked to design a trio of downtown parks along Issaquah Creek.

The selection kicks off the monthslong public process to plan the park complex. The Berger Partnership, a Seattle firm, and the city Parks & Recreation Department will seek input from residents about the features people want for the downtown Issaquah parks.

The architect will spearhead the overarching design, or master site plan, for three contiguous properties spread across 15.5 acres: Tollë Anderson, Cybil-Madeline and Issaquah Creek parks. The city plans to spend up to $1.6 million to complete the plan and build the initial phase. Issaquah voters approved money for development of the confluence-area parks in a 2006 bond.

Issaquah Parks & Recreation officials announced the selection of The Berger Partnership on May 24.

Preservation rules and the parks’ creekside geography will limit development to trails, picnic areas and other passive recreation uses.

City Parks Planner Margaret Macleod said the parks department had not picked a date for the first meeting of residents, parks staffers and the architect. Macleod said she expects the department to start asking for public input within the next few months.

“The public process is going to be a huge part of the master site plan process,” she added.

The park complex should be completed early in the next decade, though the final timeline hinges on available grants and city dollars.

Guy Michaelsen, principal at The Berger Group and the landscape architect, led the transformation of old runways and taxiways at Magnuson Park — 315 acres of a former military base along Lake Washington — into manmade wetlands and sports fields. The architect trekked through the Issaquah parks several times after he decided to submit a proposal for the project.

“You can design something with an aerial photograph and a survey, but there’s something to be said for the feel of the place,” he said.

Michaelsen said the Issaquah Creek-side parks should “enhance ecology, improve the environment and invite people in.”

The city received 16 responses from landscape architects, and the selection committee culled the list to three finalists. The Berger Partnership and the other finalists prepared a conceptual design for the parks.

The other finalists: San Francisco landscape architecture firm Bionic and Nakano Associates, the Seattle firm behind the 1995 rebuild of the International Fountain near the Space Needle.

The Berger Partnership transformed decaying Lincoln Park into Cal Anderson Park early last decade. The design added a lid to the Lincoln Reservoir on the site, capped by sports fields and a landmark fountain.

Officials in neighboring Sammamish also enlisted the firm to design Sammamish Landing Park. Read more

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Ferry tale

February 23, 2010

Vessel named for Issaquah overcomes early troubles to become fleet workhorse

Night descended hours earlier, when the weak, winter sun slunk behind the Olympic Mountains. Stragglers wait along Fauntleroy Cove; the afternoon rush ended long ago. The last commuters sit, impatient and weary, in vehicles, sealed behind steel and safety glass. Lines form and vehicles — mud-caked Subaru wagons, worn SUVs with stickers on the rear windows — inch into position. Destination: Vashon Island.

The ferry glides into view across Puget Sound. The hull carries the same name as a place 20 miles east: Issaquah.

The vessel matters little to the travelers; the Klahowya or the Tillikum could carry them home just the same.

Come daylight, the boxy Issaquah looks as unglamorous as a mail truck, with the same work ethic as a letter carrier — neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom keeps the ferry idle.

Darkness softens the hard edges, and the Issaquah looks handsome, even majestic. Light spills from the oblong windows and the open vehicle deck. Reflections glimmer across the dark water.

As the ferry approaches the West Seattle terminal, propellers churn the inky water into foam, like the frothy head on a glass of pilsner. The vessel nudges the dock, the ramp lowers and attendants in fluorescent gear direct vehicles from the maw. Not 20 minutes later, more cars, trucks and SUVs fill the hold.

The placid efficiency contrasts with the years in the Carter era when the Issaquah entered service and headlines blared problems aboard — and caused by — the ferry.

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