Stephen Colbert: “Environmental scientists —
this is true — have tested salmon in the Puget Sound out around
Seattle. And they found that, because those salmon are near all
these wastewater-treatment plants, the salmon are full of drugs,
including Prozac. I don’t blame them, because if I spent all my
life living in wastewater, I would definitely need a mood
Stephen Colbert dedicated a portion of his “Late Show” with a
humorous take on a recent scientific report about how drugs are
passing through people’s bodies and ending up in Puget Sound, where
they can affect fish, including salmon. This video has been viewed
about 216,000 times since it was posted last Tuesday.
In the four-minute video, Colbert goes on to have a conversation
with Sammy the Salmon, who seems clearly affected by the drugs he
has been consuming.
On the serious side, you can read about the study from the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a
Kitsap Sun story by reporter Tristan Baurick. Tristan’s story
inspired me to write a
“Water Ways” post about one possible solution being studied:
building enhanced treatment processes into existing wastewater
In other humorous news, perhaps you’ve seen the new SeaWorld
commercial called “The
new future of SeaWorld.” The ad promotes SeaWorld’s decision to
quit breeding killer whales and to halt its theatrical shows with
orcas but not to move them out of their tanks. Recall
Water Ways, March 17.
PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, quickly
posted a parody that you can watch in the second video player on
One other bit of humor came out in print last week as an April
Fool’s joke from the Center for Biological Diversity. Here’s a
quick sample from
“Endangered Earth online.”
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week confirmed rumors
that the comb-over wilderness atop the pate of presidential
contender Donald J. Trump is indeed “critical habitat” for more
than 300 endangered species.”
“The Center’s innovative ‘Take Extinction Off Your Plate’
campaign — aimed at reducing meat consumption for the sake of
people’s and the planet’s health — announced today it would be
baking 10,000 kale-lentil muffins and delivering them to needy gray
wolves across the West.”
“The Center went to federal court this week to challenge the
Environmental Protection Agency’s recent finding that smooth jazz
is ‘perfectly safe’ for people and wildlife.”
Fishing seasons for coho salmon in Puget Sound are expected to
be cut back severely this year, as the latest forecasts of salmon
returns predict that coho runs will be less than a third of what
was forecast for 2015.
Salmon managers faced some tough facts recently when they read
over results from a computer model used to predict the effects of
various fishing scenarios. After they plugged in last year’s
fishing seasons and this year’s coho forecast, the computer told
them that essentially no fish were left to spawn in Stillaguamish
River in northern Puget Sound. Things were hardly better for the
Skagit or Snohomish rivers or for streams in the Strait of Juan de
Fuca and Hood Canal.
“With last year’s fisheries, you will catch every fish out
there,” said Doug Milward, who manages salmon data for the
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “All the fisheries will
have to change to protect the Stillaguamish (coho) — from the ocean
fisheries to inside (Puget Sound).”
Last year’s fishing seasons are not even a good starting point,
as negotiations begin between salmon managers for the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife and Western Washington tribes.
Under federal court rulings, the two sides must agree on fishing
seasons, and the goal remains a 50-50 split of the various stocks
that can be safely harvested. NOAA Fisheries plays a role in
setting seasons for chinook, which are listed as threatened under
the Endangered Species Act. Coho are not listed, although some
people argue that they should be.
By April 14, if things go as planned, the two parties will reach
agreement on when and where salmon fishing will take place — for
tribal and nontribal, sport and commercial fishers.
“Unfavorable ocean conditions led to fewer coho salmon returning
last year than we anticipated,” John Long, salmon fisheries policy
lead for WDFW, said in a news release. “We expect to
see another down year for coho in 2016 and will likely have to
restrict fishing for salmon in a variety of locations to protect
wild coho stocks.”
It seems the tribes have a slightly different take on the
“There likely will be no coho fisheries in Western Washington
this year, as returns are expected to plummet even further than
last year because of poor ocean survival,” Lorraine Loomis,
chairwoman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, stated in
She said that when last year’s coho returns are finally tallied,
they may be as much as 80 percent below preseason forecasts. The
Nisqually Tribe last year canceled its coho fishery when less than
4,000 of the anticipated 23,000 fish returned to the area, she
Tribes fish at the end of the line, after all the other
fisheries — from up the West Coast to the inside of Puget Sound.
Because the treaties require tribes to fish within their “usual and
accustomed areas,” agreements on fishing seasons must allow for
salmon to return to their natal streams with numbers large enough
for tribes to take their share, Lorraine said.
“Every year we must wait and hope that enough fish return to
feed our families and culture,” she said. “Faced with low catch
rates last year, however, most tribal coho fisheries were sharply
reduced or closed early to protect the resource. The state,
however, expanded sport harvest in mixed stock areas last year to
attempt to catch fish that weren’t there. That’s not right. The
last fisheries in line should not be forced to shoulder most of the
responsibility for conserving the resource.”
The annual negotiations between the state and the tribes were
kicked off Tuesday at a public meeting where the salmon forecasts
were discussed with sport and commercial fishers.
In addition to a poor return of coho to Puget Sound, the
forecast for Puget Sound chinook also shows somewhat lower numbers
than last year.
One bright spot is for people who like to fish in the ocean.
About 951,000 fall chinook are expected to return to the Columbia
River. That’s higher than the 10-year average but lower than last
year’s modern record of 1.3 million. About 223,000 hatchery chinook
are expected to return to the lower Columbia River. These fish,
known as “tules,” make up the bulk of the recreational harvest.
Another bright spot is the prediction of a fair number of
sockeye returning to Baker Lake on the Skagit River, possibly
allowing a fishing season in the lake and river.
Norm Reinhardt, who heads up the Kitsap Poggie Club, has been
involved in advisory groups on salmon fishing and participates in
discussions about the seasons.
“This year, we have a significant challenge in the coho fishery,
and we will have to base decisions on conservation needs,” Norm
told me following Tuesday’s meeting.
Despite lower chinook numbers, there could be ways to work out
some opportunities to fish for hatchery chinook, he said.
Catch-and-release is one option on the table, but it is not popular
among sport fishers.
Anglers are still smarting from last year’s sport-fishing
closure in Area 10, a designated fishing area between Bremerton and
Seattle. Fishing for chinook was prohibited in that area at the
insistence of the Muckleshoot Tribe to protect hatchery chinook
returning to the Issaquah Creek hatchery.
Fishing should have been allowed at some level — with the
release of wild chinook — under an agreed management plan, Norm
says, but state managers yielded to the tribe at the last minute in
order to hasten a final agreement. On Tuesday, Norm told state
salmon managers that he doesn’t want to see that happen again.
“In area 10, our argument is going to be that if we have
adequate chinook, we should be allowed to fish on our fish — unlike
last year,” he said.
The reduced number of coho returning to Puget Sound has been
blamed on ocean conditions, including higher water temperatures off
the coast and a mass of warm water called “the blob,” which stayed
around for two years. Studies have shown that warmer water alters
the species of plankton available for fish to eat. The result is
that the fish are consuming a plankton lower in fat content,
causing coho to be thinner and fewer.
The 2016 forecast of about 256,000 Puget Sound coho is about 40
percent of the average return over the past 10 years and 29 percent
of the number predicted for 2015 — a prediction that turned out to
be too optimistic. Because of the failed coho forecast last year,
everyone is expected to be more cautious about aspects of the
computer modeling this year.
Charts on this page were presented during Tuesday’s meeting. The
new charts make the presentation easier to understand, compared to
the tables of data discussed at previous meetings. The data tables
are still available when one needs to dig into the finer details.
The new maps use colors to describe how streams are doing. Poor
(red) is if the run or forecast for a stream is less than 75
percent of the 10-year average. Good (green) is if the run or
forecast for a stream is more than 125 percent of the
10-year-average. Neutral (blue) is if the run or forecast falls
between 75 percent and 125 percent.
Anyone may attend the meetings where the ongoing negotiations
and possible tradeoffs are discussed. Allowing more fishing in one
place often results in less fishing somewhere else, and there’s
always the question about whether enough salmon are being left for
spawning in the streams.
“We’re going to have to be creative in order to provide
fisheries in some areas this year,” John Long said. “We would
appreciate input from the public to help us establish
Information about the salmon forecasts, the meeting schedule and
methods of commenting are available on WDFW’s North of Falcon
On March 14, various parameters for ocean fishing will be set by
the Pacific Fishery Management Council, a group empowered by the
federal government to manage fish in the ocean. The PFMC will adopt
ocean fishing schedules and harvest levels during its April 8-14
meeting, at which time state and tribal salmon managers are
expected to approve fishing seasons for the inland waters.
Brown bears are still actively fishing at Brooks Falls in
Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve. I wish I had more time
to sit and watch them, as there is almost always something going on
at this time of year — although the salmon run is expected to
decline soon. See live video from three cameras on
The looping video on this page was captured from one of the live
cameras by national park staff, who posted the action with this
note: “Wow, fishing gets intense! Bear brawl!”
For this and other live wildlife cams from across the country,
check out my “Amusing Monday” blog post in
Water Ways from June 29.
The beautiful and powerful brown bears have arrived at Brooks
Falls in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska, and everyone
in the world can enjoy the convenience of watching these giant
bears and other amazing wildlife live from the comfort and safety
of their home.
Lots of people have been going out to falls this year to watch
the bears from nearby viewing platforms, but I get the feeling that
far more people have been watching them from home via the
live webcams. I say that because of the number of
comments generated on the website. More than a few commenters
seem to know the area well and even call the bears by their
nicknames. (Park biologists use a numbering system, identifying
each bear by coat and claw colors, scars, body size and shape, ear
size and shape, sex, facial features and disposition.)
Brooks Falls is one of the first streams in the region where the
bears have easy access to bright salmon soon after they leave the
saltwater and before spawning. The falls provide a partial barrier
to their travels, making fishing easier for the bears. By sometime
in August, the fish runs will dwindle and the bears will be
Operators of the multiple live webcams do a good job of zooming
in when something interesting happens. Occasionally, so much is
going on that they don’t know what to show. Other times, we wait
and watch the beautiful scenery, which is especially dramatic at
sunrise and sunset.
When the bears are actively fishing for salmon, I find it hard
to break away and get back to daily life. One video trick I’ve
learned: If you don’t see anything interesting in the live view,
you can use your cursor to scan across the timeline to see what has
happened for the past few hours and watch that instead.
Park officials have identified the various fishing methods used
by the bears in an interesting
Q&A section on the national park’s website.
Birds and marine mammal cams
Besides watching bears, it’s a good time of year to watch other
wildlife as well via live webcam. Birds are typically active on
their nests, raising their young.
Chesapeake Conservancy is featuring the osprey couple,
Tom and Audrey, who perennially nest on Kent Island in
Maryland. Audrey has taken up with a new “Tom” this year and
produced three babies. They also received two foster chicks from
nearby Poplar Island, according to information on the website.
Another good osprey cam was installed this year in Belwood Lake
Conservation Area near the Great Lakes in Ontario, Canada. Three
eggs reportedly hatched, but I see only two chicks in the nest.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also has an osprey
cam that updates still photos every 12 seconds.
cam at Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge in Maine shows a
fuzzy chick tucked into a burrow where its mother comes and goes to
feed her baby. Other views shows puffins on a ledge where they
often hang out. Wildlife biologists are trying to establish a new
colony at this location after hunters wiped out the puffins in the
If you would like to see a colony
of walruses, (also in video player below) check out the live
camera installed on Round Island, Alaska. Sometimes only a few of
the large mammals can be seen. Other times, like this morning,
large numbers were pushing and shoving each other for space. The
comments are often entertaining.
Hood Canal Coordinating Council is made up of county
commissioners from Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties, along with
leaders from the Skokomish and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes.
When planning efforts began five years ago, the idea was to
create an “integrated” plan that would recognize all the ecological
functions taking place in the Hood Canal watershed and create a set
of strategies for addressing all the various problems.
The effort got off to a good start by identifying many of the
problems, ranging from declining fish populations to fragmented
upland habitats. But the complexity of those problems, the
variability of conditions and the numerous agencies responsible for
data and decisions eventually overwhelmed the planners. It was as
if they were trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle containing a
The coordinating council decided to refocus the effort on issues
that are under its purview while maintaining the long-term vision
of a sustainable Hood Canal ecosystem that benefits humans in a
variety of ways.
“Ideally, we will eventually get to all the issues,” said Scott
Brewer, the council’s executive director. “The board decided it
wanted to focus on something that would be the first strategic
priorities and then pick up the other things over time.”
In this context, the plan identifies five focal components:
Commercial shellfish harvesting,
Also, four major “pressures” are called out for special
Commercial and residential development,
Transportation and service corridors,
Climate change and ocean acidification, and
Wastewater discharges and stormwater runoff.
These are issues that the county and tribal leaders were already
addressing in one way or another, either through local actions or
through the Hood Canal Coordinating Council, which is recognized
under state law.
The new website OurHoodCanal.org highlights the connections
between human well-being and natural resources. The first findings
focus on three natural resource indicators — one each for
shellfish, forests and salmon — plus five indicators for human well
being — positive emotions, communication, traditional resource
practices, communities, natural resource industries and access to
last year, for example, showed that Hood Canal generates
positive emotions (at least most of the time) for the vast majority
of respondents, yet most Hood Canal residents say they don’t often
work together to manage resources, prepare cultural events or solve
“This is a work in progress,” Scott said about the planning
effort and related website. “We can start by telling a really good
story about what is happening in Hood Canal, then going on to make
connections and asking whether we are doing the right things.”
The first strategies identified in the plan involve:
Working together on local land-use planning,
Identifying failing septic systems and other sources of
Continuing projects to restore healthy runs of salmon,
Furthering a mitigation program to fully compensate for the
effects of development,
Finding ways to adapt to climate change, and
Developing a regional plan to reduce stormwater problems.
Meanwhile, the coordinating council has developed a new ranking
system for setting priorities for salmon restoration. Refinements
will come later, Scott said, but the system is currently being used
to identify restoration projects to be proposed for funding later
Under the Salmon
Recovery Prioritization (see “guidance” document) projects will
be given more consideration if they help highly rated salmon
stocks, such as fall chinook in the Skokomish River, summer chum in
the Big Quilcene and so on. Projects are given points for
addressing specific habitat types and restoration actions deemed to
be the most important.
If successful, this approach will result in funding the most
important restoration projects, as determined through a more
precise ranking process than ever used before, although it does
leave room for judgment calls.
While the Hood Canal Coordinating Council works on projects in
Hood Canal, other groups continue with similar efforts in other
“Everyone is prioritizing one way or another,” Scott told me,
“but they haven’t looked at it like we have.”
Scott said agencies and organizations that grant money for
salmon recovery or ecosystem restoration could call for an improved
ranking process throughout Puget Sound.
“A lot of money gets spread everywhere,” he noted, “but there
are some key spots throughout Puget Sound that need it more than
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
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.
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.