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

Salmon SEEson is here!

Photo courtesy of Craig Barbaccia, taken where the Tolt Pipeline Trail crosses Cottage Lake Creek.

Fall is here and salmon are returning to local rivers and streams. The best time to view salmon is before the end of November. Make sure to check out a site near you! The 14th annual Salmon SEEson program provides information on virtual and self-guided viewing locations around King County. This is a great opportunity to get outside safely, following public health guidelines. The Salmon SEEson website highlights resources from WRIA 8 partners, including curriculum materials, online learning programs, videos, and coloring workbooks so you can learn more about salmon at home.

The impact of environmental education on sense of place among urban youth

Place attachment is considered a bond or connection between people and place, notably, but not exclusively, the natural environment. Based on data from a 5-week study in New York City, researchers found that place attachment based on the natural rather than the civic aspects of a place predicted pro-environmental behavior. To advance the understanding of the interaction between attachment and meanings this study developed pre/post-program surveys for youth in urban environmental education (experimental group) and non-environmental summer youth employment programs (control group) located along the Bronx River watershed in New York City. Results found that the mean score for ecological place meaning increased significantly in the experimental group and did not change in the control group.

Read full article.

History of food web found in harbor seal skulls

Skull that is part of entire seal skeleton stored by NOAA National Marine Mammal Laboratory. Photo courtesy of Megan Feddern/UW

University of Washington's School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences is attempting to determine if seals are a contributing factor to local salmon declines. Traveling to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., Ecologist, Dr. Megan Feddern, was able to use bone samples to discover a significant relationship between the type of fish that seals eat in the Puget Sound and environmental conditions at the time.

"They seem to eat what is available," Feddern noted, which fits the well-known description of seals as "opportunistic feeders" and raising this important question: Would seals today eat less salmon if more herring or hake were available?

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Probing for answers to control seal populations

A harbor seal skins a chum salmon, Whatcom Creek Estuary, Washington. Photo: Andrew Reding (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Harbor seals appear to be eating a significant amount of salmon at the Ballard Locks. Experts fear predation by seals may be hampering efforts to recover the threatened Puget Sound Chinook and, in turn, the endangered southern resident killer whales. The threat in Puget Sound appears to be from the rapid growth of the overall seal and sea lion population after the 1972 passage of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Michael Schmidt, Deputy Director of Long Live the Kings, discussing how to manage seal and sea lion populations —including the potential lethal removal of animals — said "this is the focus of much discussion, but it is just one of many concerns in the long-term effort to recover salmon and steelhead".

Read the full article

Researchers test underwater noisemaking device to scare away seals at Ballard Locks

Biologist Asila Bergman with Oceans Initiative lowers the acoustic startling device next to the Ballard Locks spillway (Courtesy of Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

Targeted Acoustic Startle Technology (TAST), developed by scientists from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St. Andrews, is marketed by GenusWave Ltd. based in Edinburgh, Scotland. The device was made for use at fish farms, to keep seals away from net pens, and is being tested at the Ballard Locks to determine its effectiveness at keeping seals from preying on salmon returning to the watershed.

The device is housed in a metal canister that looks like an upscale water bottle, and produces a sound played through two underwater speakers at randomized intervals. The sound it makes is not particularly loud or unpleasant... to a person. But to a seal?

"You wouldn't think it's a big deal," said biologist Laura Bogaard, who helped with the trial of the device at the Locks this summer by Oceans Initiative, a Seattle-based research nonprofit. "But it's my sense the seals spend more time further away when it is on, and when it is off, they are closer."

The acoustic technology replaces conventional, loud noisemakers that tend to have limited effect and are harmful to the seals as they are often rendered deaf. The sound made by the TAST startle device provokes a flight response — a fundamental mammalian response to the threat posed by a predator — without causing harm to the seal or bothering salmon.

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King County Executive Dow Constantine tours floodplain restoration site on the Cedar River

The heavy rains last February resulted in high flows in the Cedar River that reconfigured several areas of the Cedar River. In late September, King County Executive, Dow Constantine and project partners visited the Rainbow Bend levee setback and floodplain restoration project to review how changes resulting from the flooding significantly improved habitat conditions and reduced flood risk at the project site. The Rainbow Bend project was completed in 2013 to reduce flood risk to State Route 169, the Cedar River Trail, and other important infrastructure, as well as to restore critical salmon habitat.

While at Rainbow Bend, the group also reviewed King County's Riverbend Floodplain Restoration Project, which is located a few miles downstream, where the river breached a levee during the February flood and flowed into and through Cavanaugh Pond. This shift in the river's flow path at the project site resulted in changes to the project design and project construction started in September.

Please read the press release from King County

New Salmon Habitat in Bear Creek

Adopt A Stream Foundation completed the installation of 100-logs anchored with huge boulders in Bear Creek. These new structures are intended to primarily benefit Chinook salmon; however, all other fish in the creek will welcome the refuge they provide.

The stream banks have been sloped to gentle 45-degree angles and covered with jute netting making the floodplain much wider. Now there are side pools incorporated into the stream channel along with the log structures. In October, Adopt A Stream Foundation will begin planting trees and shrubs on both sides of the stream that will significantly improve the riparian zone - the area of vegetation next to a stream that affects the stream's ecological health.

Aerial photo of the site in Redmond's Friendly Village community before the project began

Aerial photo of the site after project construction

Observing salmon in Cottage Lake Creek

Cottage Lake Creek resident, Jeanne Hannah, has been involved in stewardship activities in the Bear Creek watershed for several decades. In her words: "Since 1982 I've spent 38 years doing all that I can to provide protection for our fish and wildlife by planting riparian vegetation that provides food, nesting places, shade and hiding places along with preventing erosion and doing all that I can to keep our water clean." Jeanne's outstanding efforts extend from creating her "Piece of Paradise" in her award-winning garden, to working with the first King County Basin Steward, Ray Heller, in the development of the 1995 Bear Creek Basin Plan, to giving garden tours to promote natural yard care, and being a salmon watcher. Over the years Jeanne has reported seeing "less salmon spawning upstream", but this year "with counting more Chinook in just a few days than I've seen in the last few years I'm over the moon!" Jeanne reports seeing over 27 salmon in just a few short days last month!

1982 photo of the bank. 2) Current photo with riparian vegetation on the bank. 3) salmon seen in the creek, all courtesy of Jeanne Hannah.

Cedar Creek restoration completed in time for salmon return

Juanita Creek culvert replacement at 100th Avenue NE, Kirkland, WA

Just in time for the 2020 rainy season, the City of Kirkland is celebrating the completion of a new fish passable culvert on Cedar Creek at 100 Ave NE. Cedar Creek is a major tributary to Juanita Creek, which flows into Lake Washington in the northern part of Kirkland. The new 14-foot-wide by 120-foot-long box culvert replaces a fully impassable culvert. Access to habitat is one of the primary limiting factors to fish productivity in the region, and this project has opened up a mile of upstream habitat to fish and other aquatic species. Additional habitat improvements of the project include improved upstream channel complexity, large woody debris installation, and the planting of over 4,200 native trees and shrubs. Check out the 100th Ave Project Update and the 100th Ave NE Corridor Website for more details.

WSDOT to clean up May Creek thanks to legislative inquiry

At the request of concerned citizens, Representative Steve Bergquist, (D — 11 District), sent an inquiry to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) regarding cleanup of toxic runoff from I-405 into May Creek. Larry Reymann, WRIA 8 Salmon Recovery Council member, summarized the results of the inquiry:

The inquiry relates to the May Creek storm drainage system discharge located on the upstream side of the I-405 crossing at milepost 7.18. WSDOT is in the process of removing highway runoff that currently outfalls to May Creek to new treatment facilities in the Northeast 44th Street interchange area. The net benefit of this project will improve water quality, as well as opening fish habitat by correcting several fish barrier culverts.

The project work in the May Creek vicinity is currently underway and is scheduled to be complete in 2024.

New guidance for cleanup of toxics in Puget Sound

The Environmental Protection Agency recently drafted their recommendations for the cleanup of toxic chemicals in Puget Sound. Pharmaceuticals, pesticides and other products that pass-through wastewater treatment plants have biological effects on species throughout the ecosystem. The strategy recommends increased monitoring and prioritization of these contaminants to overcome what it calls "key data gaps" regarding their toxicity in Puget Sound.

The Washington State Department of Ecology is co-developing the strategy with the Department of Commerce and the Washington Stormwater Center. The new recommendations, if approved, will address the Puget Sound Partnership's Toxics in Fish Vital Sign which tracks contaminants in adult and juvenile Chinook salmon, English sole and Pacific herring.

The draft strategy is available for review at the Puget Sound Partnership website.

FEMA ends policy favoring flood walls over green protections

Based on new policy direction, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is encouraging communities to use environmentally friendly features such as wetlands for flood protection instead of building sea walls and levees.

A new FEMA flood policy released late last month will promote mitigation projects that provide environmental benefits in addition to flood protection.

FEMA's policy boosts the nationwide push for "nature-based" flood control such as wetlands, open space and reefs over traditional flood barriers that are built to contain rivers and coastal storm surge and can disrupt the natural environment.

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Become a Salmon Watcher

If you are interested in becoming a "Salmon Watcher" on streams that flow into the Sammamish River from Snohomish County including Bear, Little Bear, North, Swamp, MacAleer, and Lyon Creeks, please sign up through this website. (https://jsjensenblog.wordpress.com/north-lake-washington- salmon-sightings/)

Or, if you are interested in viewing some Coho salmon swimming past the Northwest Stream Center along with the changing colors in the trees, reserve a time to enjoy a stroll on the Northwest Stream Center Nature Trail.

Shore Friendly Living Video Series: Episode 1 - Coastal Beaches and Bluffs

Check out this great Shore Friendly Video: Coastal Beaches and Bluffs narrated by Hugh Shipman, a retired geologist.

Salmon in the city, virtual event — October 29th

Join Salmon-Safe on October 29th for Salmon in the City 2020 - Registration is live! This free, virtual event will highlight innovations in ecologically sustainable urban design and development that protect water quality and our urban watershed. NOAA Fisheries will present groundbreaking research regarding the impacts of urban stormwater on salmon and watersheds. The event will feature pioneering design collaborations bridging architecture and ecology as well as case studies of projects incorporating Salmon-Safe stormwater design principles. Register Today!

7th Annual RRNW Stories of Our Watersheds — Free Virtual Stories

You are invited to celebrate how we experience and sustain our watersheds through film on the virtual big screen. The selected films include watersheds from the Pacific Northwest to Tasmania, see the full list online.

Register to be notified about how to access the films which will be available for viewing online October 26th to November 7th. With your registration you will also receive access to our live meet the film makers event on November 7th.

2021 Salmon Recovery Conference - April 27th - 30th, 2021

The conference theme, Building a Movement reflects where we are in the arc of recovery and the importance of coming together to grow our partnership. Washington State needs to continue to build a movement to complete the work to recover Washington's iconic salmon begun over 20 years ago.

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.