UPDATE: April 24, 2015
Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of
Washington, says in his
blog that it is too early to be predicting severe drought in
Western Washington this summer because of possible late-spring
“I believe the media and some local politicians have gotten a
bit too worried about our ‘drought.’ We have NOT had a
precipitation drought at all….we are in a snow drought due to warm
temperatures. The situation is unique and I suspect we will weather
this summer far better than expected.”
The word seems to be getting around about the record-low
snowpack in the mountains, which could create a shortage of
drinking water and even lead to problems for salmon swimming
upstream. Read about Gov. Jay Inslee’s expanded drought emergency, issued
today, as well as the last
update from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Kitsap Peninsula and the islands of Puget Sound are in their own
worlds, fairly insulated from what is happening in the higher
elevations. In these lower elevations, the key to water supplies is
rainfall, not snow, and the outlook for the year is normal so
As you can see from the charts on this page (click to enlarge),
this year’s rainfall has been tracking closely the long-term
average. If the rains are light and steady, much of the water will
soak into the ground and recharge the aquifers where most area
residents get their water. The aquifer levels tend to rise and fall
over multiple years, depending on the rainfall.
Casad Dam on the Union River, which supplies a majority of
Bremerton’s water, filled in January, well ahead of schedule, said
Kathleen Cahall, water resources manager for the city. The dam is
scheduled for a normal drawdown, and Kathleen said she does not
expect any water shortage.
“We filled the reservoir fairly early this year,” she said. “We
are looking pretty good for the summer.”
October, the first month of the water year, was unusually wet,
Kathleen said. December precipitation also was high. The other
months were fairly normal for precipitation.
Precipitation in the Puget Sound region is expected to be below
average for June, July and August, according to models by the
NOAA’s Climate Prediction
Center. Interestingly, large portions of the Central and
Southwest U.S., Alaska and Florida can expect above-average
precipitation. See U.S. map.
Streams on the Kitsap Peninsula are fed by surface water flows
and shallow aquifers. At the moment, most of the streamflows are
near their historical average. That’s not the case for the larger
rivers in the Northwest, which rush out of the mountains. Most are
well below their normal flows, as shown by the map with the
Low streamflows usually mean higher temperatures and stress for
salmon. Low flows also can affect fish passage in some stretches of
the rivers while also reducing spawning areas.
While things look fairly good on the Kitsap Peninsula now,
things can change quickly. We have different vulnerabilities than
elsewhere. Climate-change models predict that rains will grow more
intense in the future without changing annual precipitation very
much. That means more of the water will run off the land and less
will soak in, potentially reducing aquifer levels over time.
Managing those underground water supplies will become more and more
I’m amused by this looping video, which shows a bear waiting for
a fish to appear. In the background, a wolf reaches down
nonchalantly, bites into a large salmon and carries it away.
Not long ago, it was widely believed that bears love salmon but
that wolves prefer deer, elk, moose and related animals whenever
they can find them. Now we know, from careful observations in
Alaska, that wolves will go after salmon when they get the
Researcher Dave Person of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game
says wolves will seek out tidally affected streams where they can
find salmon passing through shallow water and trapped in pools.
“They’re not as skillful as bears at fishing,” Person told Riley
Woodford, reporting for
Alaska Fish and Wildlife News. “Each year, they spend over a
month in estuary areas, with the pups. It’s right in middle of pink
and chum runs, and we watch them eat salmon all the time. There are
lots of places they could go; I think they go there for the
Based on the video, I would have to say that wolves are pretty
good at catching fish upstream as well.
Salmon may have gone unnoticed as a staple in the wolves’ diet,
because the entire salmon, bones and all, are digested by wolves,
leaving no signs of fish in their scat — unlike the bones and fur
discovered after they eat a deer or other mammal.
Another Alaskan biologist, Shelly Szepanski, has been studying
the stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen in wolf bones to see
whether the bones are made of elements that come from the land or
the sea. She found that salmon appeared to make up as much as 20
percent of the diet of wolves living in coastal areas of Southeast
Alaska, compared to 10 percent of those living farther inland.
As I continued to look at the video of the bear and wolf fishing
for salmon, I wondered if they ever interacted and how things might
turn out in a head-to-head fight. I was able to find a video that
demonstrates that a bear might get the best of a wolf in a
one-on-one battle, but we can never forget that wolves often travel
in packs. If you watch to the end, you will see who takes charge of
the meal in question.
Speaking of fights, I am still amazed at the video below, which
shows a leopard swimming across a stretch of water, grabbing onto a
crocodile and dragging it back into the water. I never would have
guessed that a croc could be defeated in or around water like that
— but it looks like he never saw the cat coming until it was too
At Harper Estuary in South Kitsap, the question of “bridge or no
bridge?” has become, “How long should the bridge be to protect the
It’s a story I’ve been covering since 2001, when Harper resident
Chuck Hower first told me about an old brick factory that operated
in Harper during the early 1900s. He was dismayed by the massive
amount of fill dirt later brought in to build roads across what had
been a beautiful salt marsh. See
Kitsap Sun, Feb. 12, 2001.
Although state and federal agencies were convinced that
restoration of the estuary would be a wonderful thing for fish and
wildlife, funding proposals came and went until two years ago.
That’s when the Legislature decided that the Harper project should
receive $4.1 million. The money was from a $142-million settlement
with ASARCO related to pollution from company-owned smelters in
Tacoma and Everett. More than $8 million was earmarked for
environmental restoration. Check out this story,
Kitsap Sun, Jan. 14, 2014.
Once the money was approved, the project got rolling. Planners
had to decide how much of the fill material could be removed with
the available money and what to do with Olympiad Drive, built on an
earthen causeway across the upper portion of the estuary.
Biologists generally agreed that the best thing for the
ecosystem was to take out Olympiad Drive entirely, although that
would force area residents to take an alternate route on Nokomis
Road to Southworth Drive. The result would be only one road in and
out of the community east of the estuary, and that did not sit well
with folks in the area.
Local fire officials were not happy with that arrangement
either, according to Kathy Peters, salmon recovery coordinator for
Kitsap County. They said it would cut down response time to the
In addition, she said, county engineers determined that the
width of Nokomis Road would not meet design standards if the
majority of area traffic began using the road. Widening the road
would create other complications, such as buying right of way and
tearing down some buildings.
“For all these reasons, everyone agreed that we can’t abandon
the road,” Kathy told me.
What then resulted was a question of how long to make the
bridge. Often, a longer bridge means greater ecosystem integrity.
But there’s always the matter of cost.
What then ensued behind the scenes was a lot of haggling among
biologists, engineers and other county officials, as well
representatives of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
and the Suquamish Tribe. I’ve been hearing about these difficult
discussions for months.
Finally, a resolution came when Kitsap County’s new public works
director, Andy Nelson, suggested that the county proceed with
preliminary design studies, as it would for any bridge, but include
ecosystem restoration as a primary design criteria. Nobody could
find any reason not to go that way, Kathy said.
The county is now contracting for a consultant to do preliminary
design, which will include various options, how much they will cost
and how close they can come to a fully functioning natural
Meanwhile, WDFW is moving forward with its plans to restore the
estuary and get that project under construction. Much of the work
will involve removal of fill on both sides of Olympiad Drive and
along the shoreline to bring the estuary back to a semblance of
what it once was. A boat launch will be relocated.
A few other details, including the biological value of
estuaries, can be found in a fact sheet on the county’s
Harper Estuary website. Officials are pulling together
additional information in preparation for a public meeting April 6
from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Colby United Methodist Church.
Community involvement in the project is important, according to
Kathy Peters, who wants people to enjoy the waterway and be able to
observe as a variety of plants and animals recolonize the
Removing the fill is expected to unearth a huge number of old
bricks, which were dumped into the estuary after the Harper Brick
and Tile Factory went out of business in the 1930s.
Jim Heytvelt, who lives near the estuary, said neighbors have
been discussing gathering up the bricks and forming them into some
kind of monument.
“We have a pretty tight community,” Jim said. “We have
neighborhoods on both the east and west sides of the estuary who
want to get involved.”
He said most everyone is excited about the restoration, which
has been a long time coming.
American Rivers, an environmental group, has released an
inspiring new short film that captures the sense of wonder and
adventure people can experience in the wild outdoors.
The video features one little boy named Parker who exudes
enthusiasm as he runs, jumps and explores the rivers of the Olympic
Peninsula. We listen to fast-paced music as the scenes change
quickly, jumping from one place to the next, while Parker
demonstrates his “top 50 favorite things about Northwest Rivers.”
(Be sure to watch in full-screen.)
“We wanted a video that would connect with people on a fun,
personal level, reminding all of us why healthy rivers matter and
why rivers make the Northwest such a special place to live,” Amy
Kober of American Rivers told me in an email. “Wild rivers are
amazing places for kids and adults; they can make us all feel like
Amy said she chose filmmaker Skip Armstrong of Wazee Motion
Pictures “because of his talent, unique style, and creativity — and
his own love of rivers.”
Skip says he got the idea for a simple film about unbridled
enthusiasm and curiosity while watching his fiancee’s nephew
playing on the beach. When it came time to shoot the American
Rivers video, that particular boy was not available. Skip looked
around his hometown of Hood River, Ore., and found an equally
energetic and curious youngster named Parker Arneson, son of Emmie
Purcell and Shane Arneson. This high-powered 8-year-old is an avid
snowboarder and skateboarder.
Skip spent three days last summer scouting out locations on the
Olympic Peninsula, then came back in the fall with Parker for an
eight-day shoot, traveling the Highway 101 loop around the Olympic
Peninsula in a counter-clockwise direction. Being a home-schooled
student, Parker did not miss any school.
“We just followed Parker around when we got to locations,” Skip
said. “He literally did everything else. He’s an amazing person.
What struck all of us on the shoot was his ability to engage us and
the camera and to come up with ideas. He’s a ton of fun to be
“We only had one comical setback,” he said. “Hayden Peters and I
set off to scout a location and got a bit lost on the way back to
the van. It was pouring rain. We finally got to a hillside that
looked like the road was above it, so we set off to climb the hill.
Only problem was a benign-looking puddle that I stepped in with
great confidence, only to sink immediately to my armpits.
“Shortly thereafter, we arrived back at the car, me smelling
like a swamp and totally soaked. Parker thought it was pretty
Parker took some pretty good falls while running around, but he
always bounced back and was ready to go again, Skip said.
Parker even got a speeding ticket from an Olympic National Park
ranger for running too fast in the Staircase area near the North
Fork of the Skokomish River. It was a joke, of course. The ranger
was one who accompanied the film crew as part of the permit
requirements for shooting video in a wilderness area.
Emmie, Parker’s mom, said he had a great time shooting the
Skip has produced numerous films with a water theme. Check out
“featured work” on his website, WazeeMotionPictures.com. He
says it is important to remember the joy we feel in wild
“To me, there is no faster access to unbridled joy than through
the eyes of a young person or child,” he wrote me in an email. “It
was refreshing for our team to spend so much time with Parker, and
it’s cool to see audiences connect with his enthusiasm, too.
“American Rivers works so hard to protect our precious
resources, and I love that Parker shows us why this is important.
When we were shooting, we met so many wonderful people of all ages
enjoying the rivers and sights of the Northwest.”
Skip’s film reminds us that some of our best times can be had
outdoors. As the weather improves, I’m inspired and eager to get
back to some wild places with my own kids and grandkids.
I also want to thank Skip for sending along the still photos
that show Parker and the film crew out and about on the Olympic
Climate change appears to be altering the flow characteristics
of Puget Sound salmon streams, and the outcome could be an
increased risk of extinction for chinook salmon, according to a new
I’ve long been interested in how new housing and commercial
development brings more impervious surfaces, such as roads,
driveways and roofs. The effect is to decrease the amount of water
that infiltrates into the ground and to increase surface flows into
Stormwater experts talk about how streams become “flashy,” as
flows rise quickly when it rains then drop back to low levels,
because less groundwater is available to filter into the
The new study, reported in the journal “Global
Change Biology,” suggests that something similar may be
happening with climate change but for somewhat different
Climate models predict that rains in the Puget Sound region will
become more intense, thus causing streams to rise rapidly even in
areas where stormwater is not an issue. That seems to be among the
recent findings by researchers with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries
Science Center and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:
“Over the last half century, river flows included in our
analysis have become more variable — particularly in winter — and
these changes are a stronger predictor of chinook population growth
than changes in average winter flows or climate signals in the
“While other impacts to this ecosystem, such as habitat
degradation, may be hypothesized as responsible for these trends in
flow variation, we found support for increasing flow variation in
high-altitude rivers with relatively low human impacts.”
Joseph Anderson of WDFW, an author of the report, told me that
chinook salmon, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species
Act, may be particularly vulnerable to dramatic changes in
streamflows. That’s because spawning chinook tend to show up before
winter storms arrive — when the rivers at their lowest levels. The
fish are forced to lay their eggs in a portion of the river that
will undergo the most forceful flows once the rains begin to
High flows can scour eggs out of the gravel and create serious
problems for emerging fry, Joe said. Other factors may come into
play, but the researchers found a strong correlation between the
sudden variation in streamflows and salmon survival.
In the lower elevations, where development is focused, flow
variability could result from both impervious surfaces on the land
and more intense rainstorms. Efforts to infiltrate stormwater into
the ground will become even more important as changes in climate
bring more intense storms.
Stormwater management is an issue I’ve written about for years,
including parts of last year’s series called “Taking the Pulse of
Puget Sound.” See
Kitsap Sun, July 16, 2014. Rain gardens, pervious pavement and
infiltration ponds are all part of a growing strategy to increase
groundwater while reducing the “flashiness” of streams.
Other strategies involve restoring rivers to a more natural
condition by rebuilding side channels and flood plains to divert
excess water when streams are running high.
According to the report’s findings, the variability of winter
flows has increased for 16 of the 20 rivers studied, using data
from the U.S. Geological Survey. The only rivers showing less
variability were the Cedar, Duwamish, Upper Skagit and
The effect of this streamflow variability was shown to be a more
critical factor for chinook survival and growth than peak, total or
average streamflow. Also less of a factor were ocean conditions,
such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and related ocean
Eric Ward, of Northwest Fisheries Science Center and lead author
on the study, said many researchers have focused attention on how
higher water temperatures will affect salmon as climate change
progresses. High-temperature and drought conditions in California,
for example, could damage the organs of salmon, such as their
Salmon swimming up the Columbia River and its tributaries could
encounter dangerously warm waters as they move east into areas
growing more arid. Some salmon species are more vulnerable to
temperature, while streamflow may be more important for others.
Coho salmon, for example, spend their first summer in freshwater,
which makes extreme low levels a critical factor.
Eric told me that further studies are looking into how various
conditions can affect each stage of a salmon’s life, conditions
that vary by species. One goal is to build complex life-cycle
models for threatened species, such as chinook and steelhead, to
determine their needs under the more extreme conditions we can
expect in the future.
While funding for Washington’s “basic education” remains a
potential budget-buster, some legislators are beginning to worry
about a $2.4-billion financial pitfall involving culverts and
In 2013, a federal judge ordered Washington state to replace
nearly 1,000 culverts that block or impede fish passage along
Western Washington streams. The $2.4-billion cost, as estimated by
the Washington State Department of Transportation, amounts to about
$310 million per biennium until the deadline of 2030.
Nobody has even begun to figure out how to come up with that
much money, although the WSDOT has pretty well spelled out the
problem for lawmakers.
In the current two-year budget, the state is spending about $36
million to replace fish-passage barriers, according to Paul Wagner,
manager of the department’s Biology Branch. That’s not including
work on major highway projects.
WSDOT is asking to shift priorities around in its budget to
provide $80 million per biennium for fixing culverts.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee’s 12-year transportation plan calls
for increasing revenues to provide money for various improvements
throughout the state, including $360 million for culverts spread
over the 12-year period.
Even if all that funding comes to pass, the state would only
make it about halfway to the goal set by the court when the 2030
Although funding is a serious matter, the effect of fixing the
culverts sooner rather than later could boost salmon habitat and
help with salmon recovery, transportation officials
As of 2013, the agency had completed 282 fish-passage projects,
improving access to nearly 1,000 miles of upstream habitat. Another
10 projects were added in 2014.
Because the lawsuit was brought by 21 Western Washington tribes,
the court order applies to 989 Western Washington culverts, of
which 825 involve significant habitat. The case is related to the
Boldt decision (U.S. v Washington), which determined that tribes
have a right to take fish, as defined by the treaties, and that the
state must not undermine the resource.
The court adopted a design standard for culverts known as the
“stream simulation” model, which requires that the culvert or
bridge be wider than the stream under most conditions and be sloped
like the natural channel.
In an effort to gear up for culvert work, the Department of
Transportation established four design teams to prepare plans for
34 fish-passage projects for the next biennium and scope out
another 75 projects. State officials hope that by having teams to
focus on culverts and bridges, design work will become more
efficient. Agencies also are working together to streamline the
In Kitsap County, the Highway 3 culvert over Chico Creek
presents a real challenge for the department, Paul Wagner told me.
Everyone recognizes the importance of Chico Creek, the most
productive salmon stream on the Kitsap Peninsula. But replacing the
undersized culvert with a new bridge would cost more than $40
million — more than the entire budget for culverts in the current
“There are a lot of culverts,” Wagner said, “and our challenge
is that those on the state highway system are more complicated and
Not only are the state highways the largest, he said, but they
usually cannot be shut down during construction. State highways
typically have more complicated utilities and drainage systems, and
work may require buying new right of way.
Those are all issues for Chico Creek, which was rerouted when
the highway was built in the 1960s. The stream was directed into a
new channel parallel to the highway, crossing under the roadway at
a 90-degree angle.
The new design would restore the original channel, crossing
under the road at a steep angle that makes for a longer bridge. The
new route also could involve changing the interchange at Chico
“That project is definitely one we need to get at,” Wagner said,
“but it eats up a lot of the money we need for other projects.”
Removal of a county culvert under Kittyhawk Drive has increased
interest in removal of the state highway culvert, which lies
immediately upstream of the newly opened channel where the county
culvert was removed. See
Kitsap Sun (subscription), Aug. 26, 2014.
The Legislature will determine how much money will be allocated
to culverts and to some extent which ones get replaced first. New
taxes could be part of the equation for the entire transportation
budget, a major subject of debate this session.
The Army Corps of Engineers is moving forward on a $40-million
restoration program along the Skokomish River, as I mentioned in
Water Ways last week.
According to Rachel Mesko of the Army Corps of Engineers, two
major projects have been dropped from the “tentatively selected
plan” for the Skokomish, which flows into the south end of Hood
Canal. That leaves five major projects to advance forward for a
likely recommendation to Congress.
It’s hard to remember how long I’ve been writing about the Army
Corps of Engineers’ involvement in the Skokomish. So I looked it
up. The agency completed a flood analysis in 1988, considered
dredging options in 1995 and began work on the current “general
investigation” in 2000.
Before I talk about the projects being proposed, I’d like to
recall what is at stake in the Skokomish, often cited as the most
frequently flooded river in Washington state. Many people believe
that the restoration of Hood Canal, a gem of an ecosystem, cannot
be successful without first fixing the Skokomish, where individual
restoration projects have been underway for years.
“High sediment load, reduced flows and encroachment on the
floodplain by man-made structures are causing continued degradation
of natural ecosystem structures, functions, and processes necessary
to support critical fish and wildlife habitat throughout the
“The decline in populations has resulted in the listing of four
anadromous fish species under the Endangered Species Act — chinook
salmon, chum salmon, steelhead, and bull trout — that use the river
as their primary habitat.
“The impaired ecosystem has adversely affected riverine,
wetland, and estuarine habitats that are critical to these and
other important fish and wildlife species such as bears, bald
eagles and river otters to name a few.”
Let me list some of the specific problems:
Historical removal of large woody debris has simplified the
stream, wiping out pools, eliminating places for young fish to hide
and reducing nutrients, which feed aquatic insects and support an
entire food web.
Logging along the river has eliminated the supply of large
woody debris, the shade to cool the stream and the overhanging
vegetation, a key part of the food web. Logging also has increased
erosion which prevents new vegetation from taking hold, smothers
salmon eggs and fills in pools, where salmon can rest.
Levees built to protect farmland from flooding halted the
natural movement of the river, known as channel migration, and
prevented the formation of new habitats.
Logging upstream in the South Fork of the Skokomish River and
Vance Creek increased erosion and movement of sediment into the
lower river, cutting off fish access to side channels, wetlands and
other aquatic habitats.
The Cushman Dam Project blocked 25 percent of the mainstem
habitat and 18 percent of tributary habitat available for salmon in
the North Fork of the Skokomish River. Reduced flows below the dam
increased sedimentation in the lower Skokomish. As a result, about
a mile of the river dries up about two months each summer, blocking
Highways 101 and 106 disrupted natural floodplains that can be
used by fish to find food and to escape high flows and then find
their way back to the river.
Five projects designed to reduce these problems are being
proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers:
Car body levee removal: This levee was built
with old cars at the confluence where the North Fork flows into the
mainstem of the Skokomish. Some 5,000 feet of the levee would be
removed. A small channel would be created to allow water from the
mainstem to flow into the North Fork and return at the existing
confluence. Large woody debris would help direct water into the
channel. Estimated cost: $7.5 million.
Large woody debris: Upstream of the confluence
with the North Fork, large woody debris would be installed. Large
clusters of trees with root wads, as well as some single trees,
would be placed between river mile 9 and 11, as measured from the
estuary in Hood Canal. Estimated cost: $3.2 million.
Setback levee at river mile 9: The existing
levee would be breached in four locations, and a new levee would be
built some 200 to 300 feet farther away. The levee would allow for
minor over-topping but would not increase the flood risk. Estimated
cost: $2.4 million.
Grange levee: Larger breeches are planned for
the levee near the Grange hall at river mile 7.5 to 8, compared to
the levee at river mile 9. A new levee, up to 10 feet tall and
2,900 feet long, would be constructed 1,200 feet farther back with
no increase in flood risk. Locations are still under discussion.
Estimate cost $3.3 million.
Side channel connection near Highway 101: An
old remnant channel between river mile 4 and 5.6 would be restored
to take water from the mainstem at high flows. Woody debris would
help define the inlet and outlet to the channel, which would become
a ponded wetland at low flows. Estimated cost: $3.1 million.
The costs above were taken from the feasibility study and do not
include design, planning and related costs.
You might note that the River Mile 9 levee and the Grange levee
fit the concept of “Floodplains by Design,” an idea supported by
The Nature Conservancy and funded by the Washington Legislature
with $44 million. Check out the
Associated Press story.
After discussions with nearby property owners, two projects were
removed from the preliminary list. They involve excavation work on
both Hunter and Weaver creeks to restore the tributaries to more
Rich Geiger, engineer for Mason Conservation District, said the
Skokomish restoration program seems to have wide support among
landowners in the Skokomish Valley as well as among interest
groups, including the Skokomish Watershed Action Team. As a result,
he expects that the project will maintain momentum all the way to
“It is fairly rare to have a watershed working together,” Rich
said at the SWAT meeting. “The ones that are difficult are when you
have two parties, one saying ‘yes’ and other saying, ‘Don’t you
“There is support (for the Skok project) through the Corps chain
of command and all the way up to the national level,” he added.
If things go well, a final plan for the Skokomish could be ready
by late next summer, according to Rachel Mesko.
By the way, I would like to publicly thank the SWAT for the
“certificate of appreciation” I was given for my reporting on
Skokomish River through the years. It’s an honor to be associated
with this group of men and women who are fully committed to seeing
the Skokomish River restored to a healthy ecosystem.
Big money is beginning to come together for planning,
engineering and design of major restoration projects along the
Skokomish River. If approved by Congress, the cost of construction
could exceed $40 million — a lot of money to you and me, but maybe
not so much for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Last week, the state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board approved
grants for more than 100 projects in 29 counties throughout the
state. The total, from state and federal sources, was about $18
million for this round of funding.
Mason County was one of the big winners this time, receiving
$1.25 million for seven projects, including a $360,000 contribution
to planning and engineering for transformative projects on the
Skokomish. The total cost for a “35-percent level of design” is
expected to be $2.45 million, mostly from the Corps of Engineers.
That level of design is needed to give top officials in the Corps
and members of Congress a good idea of cost before they commit to
the massive undertaking along the Skok.
I’ll address the specific Skokomish River projects, along with
new information from the Corps, in a separate blog post to come.
For now, I’d like to describe other projects approved in the latest
round of SRF Board funding.
In addition to the design work on the Skokomish, the Mason
Conservation District will move ahead with the construction of 21
man-made logjams in the Holman Flats area along the South Fork of
the Skokomish. That is an area that was logged and cleared in
preparation for a dam that was never built.
The clearing destabilized the river and degraded salmon habitat
for more than a mile downstream. The logjams will add structure to
the river and create places for fish to hide and rest, ultimately
improving the channel itself. The $362,000 from the SRF Board will
be supplemented with another $900,000 in grants.
Beards Cove, $297,000: This project, outside of
Belfair on Hood Canal, will remove fill, structures and invasive
plants and restore the grade to the way it was before development
in 1973. The project will restore about a quarter-mile of natural
shoreline and seven acres of tidal marsh. Along with a separate
seven-acre land-preservation agreement and other efforts, about 1.7
miles of Hood Canal shoreline will be preserved forever. Great
Peninsula Conservancy will use a separate $491,000 grant from the
state’s Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program.
Allyn Shoreline, $14,000: Mason Conservation
District will complete final designs to enhance 480 feet of
shoreline along Case Inlet in Allyn, including removal of about 120
feet of bulkhead.
Likes Creek, $85,000: South Puget Sound Salmon
Enhancement Group will remove a culvert under the Simpson railroad
that blocks salmon migration on Likes Creek, a major tributary of
Goldsborough Creek. Another grant will provide $43,000 for the
project, and Mason County will assist with removal of another
Goldsborough Creek, $111,000: Capitol Land
Trust will buy 420 acres on the North Fork of Goldsborough Creek
near Shelton. The property provides habitat for endangered salmon
and steelhead. The land trust will contribute $20,000 in donated
Oakland Bay, $24,000: Capitol Land Trust will
use the money to remove invasive and dead vegetation and maintain
12 acres of shoreline plantings on Deer, Cranberry and Malaney
creeks. About $5,000 in donations will be added.
Three projects were funded in Kitsap County:
Springbrook Creek, $62,000: Bainbridge Island
Land Trust will assess the creek’s watershed and design five
salmon-habitat projects for one of the island’s most productive
streams. The land trust will contribute $11,000 in donations of
Curley Creek, $33,000: Great Peninsula
Conservancy will assess how to protect salmon habitat in Curley
Creek in South Kitsap, one of the largest salmon and steelhead
streams in the area. The conservancy will contribute $6,000 in
donations of labor.
Steelhead assessment, $50,000: Kitsap County
will analyze existing information on steelhead habitat in the East
Kitsap region, south to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, to help with a
recovery plan for the threatened fish. The county will contribute
Other notable projects include the following in King,
Snohomish, Thurston and Whatcom counties:
Mill Creek, $327,000: The city of Kent will
built a floodplain wetland off Mill Creek near the confluence with
the Green River, an important stream for chinook salmon and
steelhead as well as coho, chum and pink salmon and cutthroat
trout. The project includes the construction of 1,000 feet of new
off-channel habitat, where salmon can find refuge and food during
floods, and 43 log structures. Work also will restore seven acres
of native vegetation. A local grant will provide $1.4 million.
Stillaguamish River floodplain, $402,000: The
Stillaguamish Tribe will purchase 200 acres on the North Fork and
main stem of the river, remove invasive plants and restore about 25
acres of riverbank with native vegetation.
Black River wetland, $90,000: Capitol Land
Trust Grant will buy 54 acres to conserve a rare wetland unique to
the Black River and protect 1.3 miles of side channel. The property
is adjacent to 75 acres already protected by the land trust in the
Black River Sub-basin, one of the largest remaining wetland systems
in Western Washington.
Nooksack River logjams: The Nooksack Tribe will
receive $320,000 for logjams in the South Fork Nooksack and
$283,000 for the North Fork Nooksack. Eight logjams in each stream
will slow the river and provide resting pools for salmon. Federal
grants will add $56,000 in the South Fork and $60,000 in the North
In announcing the $18 million in salmon-restoration grants
statewide, Gov. Jay Inslee commented:
“Salmon are important to Washington because they support
thousands of jobs in Washington — fishing, seafood-processing, boat
sales and repair, tourism, and more. When we restore land and water
for salmon, we also are helping our communities. We get less
flooding, cleaner water and better beaches. We also make sure that
our grandchildren will be able to catch a fish or enjoy watching
the return of wild salmon.”
Funding for the grants comes from the sale of state bonds
approved by the Legislature along with the Pacific Coastal Salmon
Recovery Fund, approved by Congress and administered by the
National Marine Fisheries Service.
David Trout, who chairs the SRF Board, said the restoration
projects are a lifeline for salmon:
“Without these grants that fund incredible projects, we wouldn’t
have any salmon. That’s unacceptable. We’ve seen these grants make
a difference. They create jobs, support local communities and their
involvement in salmon recovery, and most importantly the projects
are helping bring back the fish.
“After more than a decade of work, we’ve seen that in many areas
of the state, salmon populations are increasing or staying the
same. At the same time, we still have some important areas where
fish populations are continuing to decline. We can’t get
discouraged and must continue working at this. It’s too important
to stop now.”
Prompted by stream biologist Jon Oleyar. my grandson, Kevin
Jeffries, and I visited Gorst Creek today during a break in the
As I reported in
Water Ways yesterday, Jon, who counts salmon for the Suquamish
Tribe, had observed an unusual number of coho salmon swimming
upstream in Gorst Creek.
Because of heavy rains, the creek was running high and very fast
this afternoon, and the waters were a muddy brown. In fact, the
sediment load was so heavy that we spotted only a few fish swimming
upstream. We suspected that a lot of them were hunkered down in
deep pools, waiting for the flows to decline and the stream to
become more passable.
Although we did not see a lot of fish, it was exciting to watch
coho salmon trying to jump up into an outlet pipe that discharges
water from the salmon-rearing raceways in the park. Coho, wearing
their spawning colors of red, are known as jumping fish, but these
guys were going nowhere fast. Check out the video on this page.
I’m looking forward to returning to the stream after the rains
decline and the waters clear up a little bit. The coho may or may
not be gone by then, but Jon expects that we should be able to see
chum salmon in Gorst Creek at least until Christmas.
Gorst Creek is the place to go right now when looking for
migrating salmon — not only chum but also coho, all decked out in
their bright-red spawning colors, according to Jon Oleyar, who
surveys East Kitsap streams for the Suquamish Tribe.
Jon called me last night with the news the coho, which adds some
excitement to the salmon-watching experience.
Coho often hide along the stream edges, making them hard to
spot. That’s why I generally focus the attention of salmon watchers
on the more abundant chum, which race right up the middle of the
streams. But it’s great when coho add themselves to the mix.
Jon reported that the coho can be seen easily in Gorst Creek at
Otto Jarstad Park off Belfair Valley Road.
“There are a ton of fish in there,” he said, “and there are a
lot of coho, bright red.”
He said there were also plenty of chum, some that have been in
the stream awhile and others that have just arrived.
Bremerton Public Works officials, who manage the park, have not
objected to people parking outside the park gate and walking into
the park, where salmon-viewing platforms were built along the
stream by the Kitsap Poggie Club.
One good spot, Jon said, is near a pipe where water from the
nearby salmon-rearing operation pours out into the stream. Salmon
seem to get confused and try to jump up into the pipe before
heading on upstream.
Gorst Creek contains one of the latest chum runs on the Kitsap
Peninsula, and people may be able to see salmon there until the end
of the year. I often tell local residents that Jarstad Park is a
good place to take out-of-town visitors during the holidays.
That’s especially the case this year, when the chum run in the
Chico Creek system has basically run its course. The peak of the
run typically comes at Thanksgiving, but this year it was about two
weeks early, Jon tells me. While this year’s run was a decent size,
he said, the stream right now is mostly a “smelly graveyard.”
“It is one of the earliest runs I’ve seen here,” he said of the
Chico chum. “To have everything dead by Thanksgiving is very
Another possibility for seeing salmon is Dogfish Creek, which
runs through Poulsbo. “There might be a few stragglers in Dogfish
Creek,” Jon said.
It’s not too late to take a look at any of the viewing spots
listed on my salmon
viewing map of the Kitsap Peninsula, but don’t go in with high
hopes of seeing a lot of salmon at this time of year. Gorst, it
appears, is the one sure bet at the moment. (The map also contains
tips for observing salmon, which can be easily spooked.)
It’s worth noting that the rains this fall continue to be nearly
ideal for the salmon, coming in with just enough intensity and
frequency to keep the streams flowing at a good level without
flooding. I covered this issue in
Water Ways on Oct. 31.
“It has been perfect for salmon,” Jon told me yesterday. “Those
early storms brought up the streams, and the fish that were coming
in early had plenty of water.”
When the rains eventually dropped off, springs created by those
rains kept the streams flowing until the next rains arrived. As a
result, salmon were able to distribute themselves as far upstream
as they could go. That does not happen every year.
A torrential downpour could still cause flooding and disrupt
salmon eggs incubating in the gravel, but for now things look good
on the Kitsap Peninsula.
As for total rainfall, we were on a record pace for the month of
October across most of the Kitsap Peninsula, as I reported in
Water Ways at the end of last month. But, as you can see from
the charts below, we dropped off the record pace in early November
but remain above average for the water year, which begins Oct.