December 2020 Newsletter
Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed
Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 8

Delivering environmental education to youth in diverse south King County

ESC Naturalist Orian tests water quality during a live-streaming field study. Our naturalists embraced technology to help bring the salmon streams to the students this year.
ESC Naturalist Orian tests water quality during a live-streaming field study. Our naturalists embraced technology to help bring the salmon streams to the students this year.
Students fill out a stream habitat survey with the help of ESC Naturalists Jackie and Carolina. Participating students get their own version of the survey in their Salmon Heroes field journal, available in both English and Spanish.
Students fill out a stream habitat survey with the help of ESC Naturalists Jackie and Carolina. Participating students get their own version of the survey in their Salmon Heroes field journal, available in both English and Spanish.

The Environmental Science Center (ESC) adapted to the challenges presented by COVID-19 to continue serving south King County youth. Before COVID-19, youth participating in the ESC's Salmon Heroes program learned how to determine if local rivers, including the Cedar River, are suitable habitats for salmon. In March, ESC found innovative ways to bring the education to the students. Technology grants, in addition to generous grants from WRIA 8 and others, supported ESC staff through the process to provide equipment to adapt Salmon Heroes to a digital format.

ESC delivered packets and provided virtual lessons. Also, all written materials and instructions were available in Spanish (by native-speaking educators) as well as English. These no cost programs are available to community members through ESC's website.


Tire dust killing coho salmon returning to Puget Sound streams

Zhenyu Tian, a research scientist at the Center for Urban Waters at UW Tacoma, holds a sampling pole, which is used to collect creek water for future tests. (Mark Stone, University of Washington) Photo courtesy of Seattle Times/Lynda Mapes.
Zhenyu Tian, a research scientist at the Center for Urban Waters at UW Tacoma, holds a sampling pole, which is used to collect creek water for future tests. (Mark Stone / University of Washington) Photo courtesy of Seattle Times/Lynda Mapes.
A team of researchers recently revealed that the culprit behind the deaths of coho in an estimated 40% of Puget Sound is a pervasive compound known as 6PPD-quinone - a common element used as a preservative in tires to make them last longer.

This study has been years in the making with teams from the Center for Urban Waters in Tacoma, the University of Washing and Washington State University isolating this chemical by studying roughly 2,000 chemicals in road runoff.


Northwest Treaty Tribes' 2020 State of Our Watersheds report

The 2020 State of Our Watersheds report (SOW) released by the 20 treaty tribes in western Washington is broken down by regions and tribal areas of interest. Each tribe identifies different indicators and special topics as a priority for their region that directly tie to the region’s environmental health. The report also includes analysis on regional indicators for both the Puget Sound and the Pacific Coast regions.

Overall, the results are mixed, with little change in most indicators. Highlights include the increased number of restoration projects completed by the tribes and their partners, and the state reporting a decrease in the overall amount of marine shoreline armoring.


Puget Sound Partnership ranks state agency budget requests

Puget Sound Partnership released its list of ranked state agency budget requests related to Puget Sound restoration for the upcoming 2021-2023 legislative session.


Bear Creek at Keller Farm log placement project

Fish mortality map of Puget Sound showing the location of Hood Canal Bridge

The City of Redmond just completed a large-scale log placement project in Bear Creek, adjacent to the former Keller Farm, which is now serving as a wetland mitigation bank. Check out drone footage of the project site. This project creates in-stream complexity and enhances riparian vegetation for juvenile salmon, and connects multiple existing wetlands, supporting Chinook, coho and sockeye salmon rearing and refuge habitat. With log donations in part from local clearing projects, they were able to install 37 log jams along 3,000 feet of Bear Creek and planted 2,500 native trees and shrubs.


Habitat Bank-Redmond-12-04-20 from Randy Harris on Vimeo.


Salmon in the news

New fish mortality rate study finds Hood Canal Bridge is a big fish-killer

Fish mortality map of Puget Sound showing the location of Hood Canal Bridge
Long Live the Kings has completed a study using radio transmitters attached to fish to figure out what's happening to juvenile endangered fish. Juveniles like to hang out about 3-4 feet from the surface and the bridge pontoons extend down about 15-20 feet into the water column.

The study shows a fish mortality rate of 50% for this single bridge - the same for all of the dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers combined. Every ocean-bound juvenile salmon that hatches in a river, stream, or creek that flows from the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas into the 60-mile Hood Canal must deal with this bridge. This study provides important data on the impact to fish migration and survival posed by the Hood Canal Bridge.


Controversial study looks at impacts of ocean conditions not dams on salmon runs
A new study, funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, suggests that the low number of Chinook salmon returns in populations from California to Alaska is a result of ocean conditions and not dams, since Chinook runs in rivers with pristine freshwater habitat and those with degraded habitat have suffered similar declines.

The study questions whether there is ample evidence that dams on the Snake and Columbia Rivers have a negative impact on salmon and steelhead.


Impact of dams on salmon and steelhead
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council took an in depth look at the impacts of dams on salmon and steelhead in the Snake and Columbia Rivers. They have determined that impacts ranging from inundating spawning areas to changing historic river flow patterns, to rising water temperatures, have had a detrimental impact on returning salmon populations. The largest impact identified was a lack of fish passage, blocking more than 55 percent of the spawning and rearing habitat once available to salmon.


Kim Schrier backs takedown of Electron Dam on Puyallup River

U.S. Representative Kim Schrier tours the Electron Dam on the Puyallup River (Office of Congresswoman Kim Schrier)
U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier tours the Electron Dam on the Puyallup River on Oct. 22. (Office of Congresswoman Kim Schrier)
The Electron Dam on the Puyallup River formerly provided electricity to roughly 20,000 homes. This past, dam operators were issued a stop work order after rubber debris from an unpermitted use of old artificial turf installed as part of dam construction was allowed to wash downstream, polluting the river. Puget Sound Energy has canceled its power purchase contract with the dam. Kim Schrier, D-8th Congressional District believes the dam should be removed.

“The Electron Dam should come down,” Schrier said in a phone interview.

“No one is even buying electricity from this dam, and are we missing it? No,” Schrier said. “For me, it is just very obvious. It is decimating juvenile salmon runs and you are not really getting any benefit.

“When I think about the cost-benefit analysis, the cost to our salmon populations is tremendous. And we are not living up to our treaty obligation to the tribes. It doesn’t seem like any of the possible fixes would do the job or be worthy of keeping this dam.”


Shoreline armoring in Puget Sound gets new scrutiny from Army Corps of Engineers (PDF)
With rising sea levels, many seawalls and bulkheads are at risk. The Army Corps of Engineers recently announced a revision in current shoreline policy.

One of the key results of the policy change is to bring shoreline armoring under the purview of the Endangered Species Act, said Amy Carey of Sound Action.  The Endangered Species Act, which requires studies of biological effects before a project is approved, is a powerful “tool” for protecting the environment, Carey said, and it’s not directly available to state agencies.

To streamline this process, local agencies are hopeful for the development of a “regional general permit” to cover most conditions in Puget Sound, thus allowing for rapid approval, provided that a project is built to specified standards, including mitigation.


Ocean acidification on the rise (PDF)
Ocean acidification, caused by the absorption of more and more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, affect the survival, growth and behavior of all kinds of sea creatures.

New evidence suggests that acidification has already begun to upset the chemical balance of the ocean, and levels in the Puget Sound often reach harmful levels for all stages of pteropods, especially in Hood Canal, South Sound and Whidbey Basin.

Experiments on coho salmon, have shown that when they are in marine waters with low pH (higher acidity), their ability to avoid predators declines and the risk of being eaten rises dramatically.


Funding opportunities and community events:

Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grant program announcement
The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grant program seeks to develop community capacity to sustain local natural resources for future generations by providing modest financial assistance to diverse local partnerships focused on improving water quality, watersheds and the species and habitats they support.

Projects include a variety of ecological improvements along with targeted community outreach, education and stewardship. Ecological improvements may include one or more of the following: wetland, riparian, forest and coastal habitat restoration; wildlife conservation, community tree canopy enhancement, water quality monitoring and green infrastructure best management practices for managing run-off.


Climate Impact Group 25th anniversary lectures
You are invited to join Climate Impacts Group most popular lectures, follow the links below to register.


Northwest Stream Center is open
The Northwest Stream Center is located in Snohomish County's McCollum Park, 600 - 128th Street SE, Everett WA 98208. To make sure that you have a safe holiday, reservations are required by going to www.streamkeeper.org. Walk-ins will be accommodated on a space available basis. Questions? Call, 425-316-8592.


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 carnelson@kingcounty.gov.