Residents will help city restore Lewis Creek

June 8, 2010

The city and landowners plan a joint effort to remove sediment and create salmon habitat in ecologically sensitive Lewis Creek near Lake Sammamish.

The plan aims to restore habitat for the Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon — a dwindling freshwater salmon species. The city will guide landowners through the project, and the landowners nearest to the impacted stretch of creek will pay the $40,000 to $50,000 tab. City Surface Water Engineer Kerry Ritland expects work to last about two weeks.

Starting in July or August, crews will clear the channel at the mouth of the creek, in the Meadowbrook Pointe neighborhood along the southwestern shore of Lake Sammamish. Sediments built up and created a drop from the creek to the lake — another hurdle salmon must overcome in order to spawn upstream.

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Kokanee fry released into Ebright Creek

May 4, 2010

When Wally Pereyra was a fisheries biologist, his first project was rehabbing trout in a stream in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

By the time he moved to his current farmland on the Sammamish Plateau in 1973, he was “imprinted with stream ecology,” he said.

“The stream is a major part of the farm that I moved into,” he said. “The kokanee were a part of the landscape in the fall.”

A hodgepodge of elected officials, government scientists, school children and citizen volunteers met April 21 on Pereyra’s property to release some 200 Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon fry into Ebright Creek.

Ray Mullen, of the Snoqualmie Tribe, banged a ceremonial drum while the fry were dumped from three coolers into the creek on an overcast spring day. Most people in attendance wore boots to trudge through the spongy terrain around the creek.

“I feel like we’re taking a step toward recovery today, instead of steps toward extinction,” said David St. John, chairman of the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group.

The fry released April 21 were part of a larger group of 37,000 fry released into Ebright, Laughing Jacobs and Lewis creeks in April.

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Bar codes help kokanee salmon in their survival

April 20, 2010

Fish Journal

Under the direction of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the efforts of the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group to increase dwindling kokanee salmon numbers in Lake Sammamish are now underway.

Kokanee salmon have been entwined within the history and culture of native and immigrant residents of Lake Sammamish since the Ice Ages. See a previous Fish Journal piece, “Tribal Tales of the Kokanee Trout Clan,” published in The Issaquah Press and on the Web here.

The Kokanee Work Group is comprised of state, county and city municipal officials, conservation organizations, and individuals from King County and surrounding communities. All are highly motivated to save the late run species of native kokanee from an extinction experience similar to that of the early run kokanee in Issaquah Creek.

This winter, fish biologists captured male and female Lake Sammamish kokanee returning to several tributary creeks. More than 34,000 eggs were harvested, fertilized with milt from males and placed in incubation trays at the Cedar River and Chambers Creek state fish hatcheries. Read more

Scientists release kokanee fry to re-establish species

April 13, 2010

On a rain-soaked night late last month, scientists gathered along the banks of Ebright Creek to complete the latest step in a monthslong experiment meant to pull a species from the edge of extinction.

The team used buckets to transfer Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon fry — a few millimeters long and not much larger than a paperclip — from aerated coolers for the last leg of the journey from a hatchery to the wild.

Months earlier, biologists and ecologists collected mature kokanee from the same creek, as part of a last-ditch effort to boost the population of the dwindling species. From Ebright, Lewis and Laughing Jacobs creeks, teams took the fish to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, where teams harvested almost 35,000 eggs.

Scientists had not attempted to raise Lake Sammamish kokanee at a hatchery before. Throughout fall and winter, workers at the state hatcheries in Ravensdale and Lakewood raised the fry from fluorescent orange eggs.

Hans Berge, a King County senior ecologist, and a team gathered March 25 to release about 14,000 fry into the same creeks where he and others netted spawning salmon last fall. In a reverse maneuver, the team plunked the fledgling kokanee into the creeks on a cloudy, wet night.

The nighttime release offered less risk of predators picking off the fry.

Scientists deposited the fry far upstream from Lake Sammamish to allow the fish time to “imprint” on the creeks. Biologists hope the fry memorize the characteristics of the waterways and someday return to the creeks as stop-sign-red, mature salmon to spawn.

Berge estimates the fry swam from the creeks into the lake on the same night as the release. Inside Lake Sammamish, the fry feed on microscopic organisms called zooplankton. Only a fraction of the fry will reach maturity and — in three or four years — return to the creeks to spawn.

Within the next few weeks, scientists will release another 20,000 kokanee fry into Ebright, Lewis and Laughing Jacobs creeks. Read more

Residents defend Lewis Creek work, now seeking permits

February 16, 2009

George Herold stands on the bank of Lewis Creek at the Southeast 43rd Place neighborhood bridge, as fellow neighbors Laurie Bateman (left) and Paul Burton stand on the bridge deck above.By Greg Farrar

George Herold stands on the bank of Lewis Creek at the Southeast 43rd Place neighborhood bridge, as fellow neighbors Laurie Bateman (left) and Paul Burton stand on the bridge deck above.By Greg Farrar

By the time the floodwaters of Lewis Creek had receded last month, nearly 12 feet of its bank had eroded away in the 18400 block of Southeast 43rd Place.

That portion of bank holds up the only bridge that provides five families living there access to their homes.

The residents said they placed six native boulders along the creek’s remaining bank to help keep the bridge from falling Jan. 24.

“We thought we were able to make emergency improvements,” resident Laurie Bateman said. “We didn’t go out of our way to do something tricky.”

“We thought that was better than allowing the bridge to fall into the river,” said George Herold, another resident.

A downstream neighbor said he noticed the sediment in the creek that day and went to see what was happening. Concerned for endangered kokanee salmon, he called police. Read more

Illegal bridge work threatens salmon

February 9, 2009

A concerned neighbor took this photo of illegal construction being done in Lewis Creek on Jan. 24. Contributed

A concerned neighbor took this photo of illegal construction being done in Lewis Creek on Jan. 24. Contributed

Illegal construction in Lewis Creek on Jan. 24 may have jeopardized fragile kokanee salmon eggs and fry in the stream.

The construction was done at 18448 S.E. 43rd St., where nearby residents were attempting to shore up a private bridge over the creek that provides access to their homes.

Police stopped the work and city code enforcement officials are investigating how the bridge can be worked on, how the work that has been done can be mitigated and what can be done to protect the stream, said Autumn Monahan, city public information officer.

“This is a very serious issue,” she said.

A downstream neighbor found the illegal construction. Richard asked that his last name not be published because he didn’t want to be confronted by other community members.

He said he heard a lot of noise Jan. 24 and when he looked down at the creek, he noticed a lot of sediment washing down the creek.

“I couldn’t see what was going on, because there was a large clump of trees in the way,” he said. “When I walked up there, I saw a gigantic backhoe and two large dump trucks dumping boulders into the creek.”

He said there appeared to be no sediment control measures for the construction.

The first thought he said he had was for the kokanee salmon, which use the creek to spawn.

The kokanee are a species city officials have requested be put on the endangered list, Monahan said.

“I’ve participated, in the past, with King County to count the kokanee and I know that they are endangered,” Richard said. “What few eggs were left are now probably gone.”

He said he asked the neighbors what they were doing, since most work in the creek is usually done in August or September, when it has the least impact on the salmon.

He said the people he talked to were concerned that there may be a structural problem with the bridge.

“I told them that was fine,” he said, adding he is not a civil engineer, but the bridge didn’t appear to him to be in imminent danger. “But if there is a structural problem with the bridge, they need to do it the right way, a way that doesn’t hurt the kokanee or other Lewis Creek fish.”

When the neighbors didn’t appear to listen to him or stop the work, he said he called the police since it was a Saturday.

When police arrived, the residents had no permits granted or on site for the work, Monahan said.

The case has been forwarded Michele Forkner, the city’s code enforcement officer, for review with regard to the city’s critical areas ordinance and its clearing and grading codes.

The case is still under review and no citations have been issued.

“Our main goal now is to work with the homeowner to make sure the bridge is properly improved, but we also want to make sure the creek is protected,” Monahan said. “Lewis Creek is one of the remaining kokanee spawning beds for Lake Sammamish.”

Although this type of incident doesn’t happen very often, she said, work without the proper permits or research can have a wide range of effects on the city’s salmon bearing creeks. Among those are destruction of fertile salmon beds and loss of habitat.

“Any work that involves the city’s waterways, the citizen needs to call the city’s Public Works office early,” Monahan said. “Before they hire a contractor or design their project, they should know what permits they need from the city, and also with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, at the state level.

“We’re here to work with residents to make sure their work is properly mitigated and properly done in the creeks,” she added.

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

Know the law

Call the city’s Public Works Department at 837-3400 to know what permits you might need before beginning your next project.   Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

Spawning Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon decline

February 2, 2009

Dallas Cross Dallas Cross

Fish Journal

A census of the number of remaining kokanee salmon on their way to spawning in creeks feeding Lake Sammamish has been announced.  The total number of spawning adult kokanee was 90, significantly less than the 147 counted last year and 713 counted two years ago.

The counts were made in the Lewis, Laughing Jacobs, Pine Lake and Ebright creeks, the last known spawning creeks for the remaining runs of the threatened species. Read more

Preservation group honors local members

December 22, 2008

Several local people were given awards at the Dec. 10 Bellevue-Issaquah Chapter of Trout Unlimited annual awards banquet at the Issaquah Brew House.

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