FISH invites public to catch Issaquah Salmon Hatchery’s 75th anniversary

April 17, 2012

The iconic Issaquah Salmon Hatchery opened along Issaquah Creek 75 years ago and, in the decades since, developed into a symbol for the community and a lifeline for fish species.

The anniversary celebration is due to start April 22, Earth Day, as the nonprofit organization Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery hosts a public open house. The daylong celebration launches a series of events to mark the milestone.

“The hatchery brought back the salmon to Issaquah,” FISH Executive Director Jane Kuechle said.

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Lake Sammamish kokanee fry release starts Earth Day celebration

April 10, 2012

Jessica Leguizamon watches kokanee salmon fry swim away from her Dixie cup into Laughing Jacobs Creek as her sister Sabrina waits her turn and their grandfather Gary Smith looks on during the 2011 release. County environmental scientist Hans Berge makes sure the procedure is done properly. By Greg Farrar

Conservationists plodded along rain-soaked creek banks last autumn to collect mature Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon in a soggy slog and pluck fish from a handful of streams to preserve the fading species.

The groups responsible for the salmon run restoration effort plan to return to Laughing Jacobs Creek on April 19 to release minuscule fry — a sign of success for the local, county, state and federal agencies entwined in the preservation program.

The annual kokanee fry release celebrates the ongoing push to restore the declining kokanee population in Lake Sammamish and launches Earth Day observances in the area. The community is invited to participate and learn about the salmon species — a landlocked cousin of sockeye — and the preservation program.

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Federal government declines to list Lake Sammamish kokanee as endangered

October 4, 2011

Population is in decline, but local stock is not ‘distinct’ from other kokanee

Federal officials decided dwindling Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon do not qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act, prompting a chorus of disapproval from local officials.

The species’ decline concerned U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials, but did not merit the fish being listed under the act. The agency announced the decision Oct. 3.

The once-abundant kokanee declined in recent decades, perhaps due to construction near creeks, increased predators, disease or changes in water quality.

In recent years, the number of salmon in the late-fall and early-winter run has dwindled to fewer than 1,000 in some seasons. Kokanee return to only a handful of creeks — Ebright, Laughing Jacobs and Lewis — to spawn. 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 decision came after the agency spent four years to review the Lake Sammamish stock’s health.

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Lake Sammamish kokanee do not qualify for federal protection

October 3, 2011

NEW — 11:15 a.m. Oct. 3, 2011

Federal fish and wildlife officials decided Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon do not qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The species’ decline concerned U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials, but did not merit the fish being listed under the act.

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.

Local environmental groups, governments and the Snoqualmie Tribe petitioned in 2007 to list the landlocked salmon species as endangered. In the meantime, local, county and state agencies started spawning kokanee at the Issaquah hatchery to aid the species’ survival.

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Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon proposal stays afloat

August 2, 2011

Dave Reichert

In a rare bipartisan effort, the U.S. House of Representatives backed a proposal July 27 to allow officials to add animals and plants to the Endangered Species Act — a measure important to a coming protection decision for Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon.

In a spending bill, House Republicans called for only allowing the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to remove species from the endangered list, rather than add others. U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, a powerful Washington Democrat, led the effort to strip the so-called “extinction rider” from the spending bill.

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, Issaquah’s representative in Congress and a Republican, joined 36 other GOP representatives and 187 Democrats to support Dicks’ amendment.

Under a recent legal agreement between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Center for Biological Diversity, the agency is required to decide by the end of the year whether the Lake Sammamish kokanee proposal should proceed.

Local environmental groups, governments and the Snoqualmie Tribe petitioned in 2007 to list the landlocked salmon species as endangered.

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Lawmakers back measure to restore endangered listings, keep kokanee proposal afloat

July 27, 2011

NEW — 8 p.m. July 27, 2011

In a rare bipartisan effort, the U.S. House of Representatives backed a proposal Wednesday to allow officials to add animals and plants to the Endangered Species Act — a measure important to a coming protection decision for Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon.

In a spending bill, House Republicans called for only allowing the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to remove species from the endangered list, rather than add others. U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, a powerful Belfair Democrat, led the effort to strip the so-called “extinction rider” from the spending bill.

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, Issaquah’s representative in Congress and a Republican, joined 36 other GOP representatives and 187 Democrats to support Dicks’ amendment.

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Protection decision is due soon for Lake Sammamish kokanee

July 19, 2011

The long process to add the dwindling Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon to the endangered species list inched ahead July 12, as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agreed to make decisions soon about the salmon species and more than 700 animal and plant species under consideration for federal protection.

Under a legal agreement between the agency and environmentalists, the Fish & Wildlife Service is required to decide by the end of the year whether the Lake Sammamish kokanee proposal should proceed.

Taylor Goforth, a spokeswoman for the Fish & Wildlife Service in Lacey, said the agreement does not change the plan, because the agency intends to release a decision during the same timeframe.

“It’s still under review and we’re aware of the deadline and we plan to make it,” she said.

Local environmental groups, governments and the Snoqualmie Tribe petitioned in 2007 to list the landlocked salmon species as endangered.

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Decision is closer on endangered status for Lake Sammamish kokanee

July 12, 2011

NEW — 11:55 a.m. July 12, 2011

The long process to add the dwindling Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon to the endangered species list inched ahead Tuesday, as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agreed to make decisions soon about the salmon species and more than 700 animal and plant species under consideration for federal protection.

Under a legal agreement between the agency and environmentalists, the Fish & Wildlife Service is required to decide by the end of the year if the Lake Sammamish kokanee proposal should proceed.

Local environmental groups, governments and the Snoqualmie Tribe petitioned in 2007 to list the landlocked salmon species as endangered.

Kokanee used to thrive in Lake Sammamish. The freshwater salmon species formed the foundation of a robust ecosystem and a recreational fishery. Snoqualmies fished for the plentiful salmon as a staple.

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Press Editorial

May 10, 2011

Local History Month should mean something

May is Local History Month in Issaquah, as proclaimed by the mayor.

The month will come and go without many residents taking note, but the mayor is right in helping publicize the importance of Issaquah’s history.

We are often amazed at how many people know little of the early days here in Issaquah. Snoqualmie Tribe members were among the early settlers. Farming came to town and brought us the dairy cooperative now known as Darigold. The coal mines brought prosperity and the railroad to Issaquah, and our historic depot reminds of that. Logging was also king as hikers on our mountain trails are aware.

The town began in the Front Street and Sunset Way area, still the heart of the historic downtown. The Issaquah History Museums keeps an office in the original Gilman Town Hall. Out back is an early cement block jail. Pictures and mementos inside tell the story of a town with its mud streets and wooden sidewalks becoming the prosperous center of commerce along the interstate that it is today.

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Native kokanee fry released in historic ceremony

April 19, 2011

Seventy-five kokanee fry swam in a small camping cooler by Laughing Jacobs Creek, unaware they were surrounded by federal, state, county and city administrators, as well as concerned citizens — all people intent on helping the native salmon survive in the wild.

The Issaquah Salmon Hatchery teamed up with the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group and dignitaries from the city all the way to the federal level for the second annual kokanee fry release at Hans Jensen Park on April 18.

Last year, the group released the kokanee at Ebright Creek in Sammamish, and next year the release will be celebrated at Lewis Creek in Issaquah.

Jessica Leguizamon, 10, watches kokanee salmon fry swim away from her Dixie cup into Laughing Jacobs Creek as her sister Sabrina, 5, waits her turn and their grandfather, Gary Smith, looks on. County environmental scientist Hans Berge makes sure the release is done properly. By Greg Farrar

“This fry release is a critical part of our kokanee recovery and restoration efforts,” David St. John, Department of Natural Resources government relations administrator, said.

He outlined the group’s goals: preventing kokanee extinction and restoring a diverse and native habitat for the salmon.

“In our last run there was probably 100 fish, so we’re at low numbers, extremely low numbers,” St. John said.

A normal run for kokanee usually extends into the hundreds or thousands, he said in a later phone interview.

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