June 2018 Newsletter
Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed
Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 8

Supreme Court tie favors Indian Tribes in case on culverts in Washington State

Supreme Court Justices were split 4-4 in a case on whether Washington State must fix or replace hundreds of culverts that block fish passage, affirming a lower court's ruling against the state and in favor of Indian Tribes. Justice Kennedy did not vote, as he was part of the original lower court decision. A detailed legal history can be found in a Crosscut article and more information can be found on the Seattle Times website.

Updates on Orca recovery efforts

The Governor's Orca Task Force met for the first time on May 1. The task force is expected to make preliminary recommendations by October 1 and final recommendations a month later, focusing on three areas for policy recommendations or improvements: toxins in the water; food supply for the orca; and noise pollution from boats. More information can be found in a Q13 Fox article.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice on June 6 asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to propose increased habitat protections for Southern Resident Killer Whales by August 6. The Center petitioned for critical habitat designation in 2014, and is arguing that the Trump administration has unlawfully delayed protection for the remaining 76 whales. Read more at the Seattle PI. (Note: the number of remaining Southern Resident Killer Whales has since declined to 75, with the presumed death of L92, as reported by the Center for Whale Research).

On May 29, the Canadian government made a deal to expand the Trans Mountain Pipeline, tripling the capacity to transport bitumen oil from Alberta to the West Coast, which some worry could increase risks to the Southern Resident Killer Whale population, already struggling with starvation. The Pipeline expansion would multiply oil-tanker traffic in the Salish Sea by seven times, increasing the noise pollution that interferes with whales' ability to forage for Chinook salmon and increasing the risk of a devastating oil spill. More information can be found at the Seattle Times and in Governor Inslee's op-ed.

On June 28, Patagonia Ballard is hosting Orcas Need Free-Flowing Rivers, an in-store event with Whale Scout and Defenders of Wildlife that will feature a discussion on how restoring rivers can save orcas from extinction. The event is at 7pm on June 28 at the Patagonia Ballard store.

Sammamish River Trail Closures from July 9 — September 27

Two sections of the Sammamish River Trail — just upstream of the Interstate 405 overpass — will be periodically closed to all traffic during 30-minute increments between July 9 and Sept. 27. The closures are to accommodate work crews repairing two areas where the river bank is eroding and threatening the integrity of the trail. Construction hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. No detours will be possible. To stay informed about closures, visit www.kingcounty.gov/rivers-sammamish and sign up for project updates. Or receive updates via your phone by texting "KINGSRT" to "468311."

Increased funding for repairs and fish passage at Ballard Locks

In the final Fiscal Year 2018 work plan, the Army Corps of Engineers allocated an additional $13.149 million in 2018 for repairs at the Ballard Locks and Lake Washington Ship Canal, bringing the total to $23.019 million. The additional funding for priority projects became available through the March 22 omnibus spending bill and WRIA 8 and partners requested that a portion of it go to Locks projects. The funding will be used to replace the badly degraded large lock filling culvert valves and machinery, replace the fish ladder programmable logic controller, and replace the Lock #2 gate bushing. Read the full FY 2018 Operations and Maintenance Work Plan.

Puget Sound Day on the Hill recap

During the week of May 21, WRIA 8 Salmon Recovery Manager, Jason Mulvihill-Kuntz, joined over 60 others from the Puget Sound area for the annual Puget Sound Day on the Hill event in Washington, D.C., organized by Puget Sound Partnership. The group met with legislators to provide updates on successes, ongoing needs, and ensure that the critical importance of the Puget Sound ecosystem, including salmon recovery, for national culture, health, and economy are understood and valued. In addition to meetings with members of Congress, Jason also joined other partners to meet with Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters staff to specifically discuss and emphasize the need for funding for critical Ballard Locks repairs to improve fish passage and ensure safe facility operations.

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene tours WRIA 8 habitat restoration sites

On Saturday, June 16, Congresswoman DelBene joined WRIA 8 Salmon Recovery Manager, Jason Mulvihill-Kuntz and local government elected officials and staff for a tour of two habitat restoration sites in her district. The tour featured the Sammamish River Side Channel restoration project in Bothell (completed in 2016) and the 132nd Ave NE Fish Barrier Removal project in Woodinville (completed in 2012). Visits to these projects highlighted the importance and contribution of federal funding to salmon recovery, state and local match to federal funding, the multiple benefits of salmon habitat restoration projects, and the value of the regionally coordinated partnerships among local governments in the watershed to recover Chinook salmon.

Preliminary design has begun on Sammamish Basin Willowmoor Floodplain Restoration Project

King County has started preliminary design of the Willowmoor Floodplain Restoration Project, which the WRIA 8 Salmon Recovery Council helped fund with a Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration (PSAR) grant in 2015. This project is located on the Sammamish River adjacent to Marymoor Park and has a goal of reducing flood risk and enhancing habitat conditions for Chinook salmon and other salmon species. After a few years of technical work and stakeholder engagement, the project team is moving forward with preliminary design of the selected preferred alternative, which creates a new side channel along the left bank and will continue to explore options to address elevated water temperatures in the Sammamish River.

Salmon in the news:

New Science Publication Quantifies Record-Setting Salmon Abundance in North Pacific Ocean
A new study finds Pacific salmon numbers are at their highest since record keeping began in 1925. Pink, Chum, and Sockeye Salmon have been more abundant during the past 25 years than at any time since 1925, but Chinook and Coho salmon and Steelhead trout are suffering. The authors speculate on the ocean carrying capacity and recommend changes in hatchery management.

Mother of cod: We're fishing exactly the wrong fish, scientists warn
In a new report, scientists quantify the disproportionate reproductive contribution from older female fish, disproving the fisheries model assumption that one large old female fish can be replaced by several smaller younger female fish. As female fish age, their ovaries grow and they can carry not only more eggs, but higher quality eggs. The authors of the report warn that most classic fisheries model don't take into account the loss of large fish, which are the first to disappear under fishing pressure.

Salmon migration lessons like fantasy football for fish, with 2,000 classrooms playing
Long Live the King's Survive the Sound program captivates students as they learn about salmon migration, conservation, and water quality. Classrooms, individuals, or teams can sponsor a juvenile steelhead fish as it migrates out to the Pacific Ocean, check in on its progress, and earn points depending on how far the fish travels over the course of 12 days.

Scientists say fish feel pain. It could lead to major changes in the fishing industry
In the last two decades, researchers have collected evidence that fish have the ability to feel pain and consciously suffer. Recently, the subject has been garnering public attention and has led to questions about fishing practices and policies.

Mussels in Washington's Puget Sound test positive for opioids, other drugs
Mussels in Puget Sound have tested positive for opioids, four kinds of synthetic surfactants, seven kinds of antibiotics, five types of antidepressants, more than one antidiabetic drug, and one chemotherapy agent. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists test herring, English sole, Chinook salmon, and mussels every other year for a number of contaminants. Fish are able to metabolize some chemicals, whereas mussels cannot, better revealing contaminants found in the water.

Chinook salmon (also known as king salmon) are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In WRIA 8, citizens, scientists, businesses, environmental and community organizations, and local, state and federal governments are cooperating on protection and restoration projects and have developed a science-based plan to conserve salmon today and for future generations. Funding for the salmon conservation plan is provided by 28 local governments in the watershed. For more information visit our website at www.govlink.org/watersheds/8/.

If you would like to submit an item for inclusion in the next WRIA 8 e-newsletter, please email lwest@kingcounty.gov.