February 2021 Newsletter
Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed
Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 8

By Crew and Officers of NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN

A Group of Orca Outcasts Is Now Dominating an Entire Sea

Known as transients, these cousins to the Southern Resident Orcas, are thriving while their cousins face extinction. Transient orcas have an entirely different language and culture, breed separately, and prey on marine mammals rather than Chinook salmon, the primary food source for Southern Residents. In 2018, the transient population reached 349 while the Southern Resident population is shrinking. The greatest distinction helping the transient pods thrive is their preference for preying on marine mammals.
Read full article

End-of-Watch for southern resident orcas

The Salish Sea's endangered Southern Resident Orca population is critically low, with only 74 individuals living in three pods. Long-time researchers are concerned the population may be at a tipping point for long-term survival given the lack of individuals of reproductive age, extended time between births, and poor survival of calves that are born.

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Congress moves to invest in the nation's estuaries

Affirming its commitment to the National Estuary Program, which includes Puget Sound recovery, Congress passed legislation to double annual funding to $50 million dollars. The Protect and Restore America's Estuaries Act was signed into law on January 13, 2021.

"These actions demonstrate a clear recognition by Congress of the economic and environmental value of our nation's estuaries and coasts," said Lexie Bell, chair of the national nonprofit Association of National Estuary Programs.

Press release.

In the Oceans, the Volume Is Rising as Never Before

The endangered Maui dolphin is bound to a specific biogeographic range and cannot relocate to quieter waters. Credit: Richard Robinson/Nature Picture Library, via Alamy

We are all familiar with the "song of the sea", from rhythmic waves breaking on the shore, to the sound of whales calling their family from beneath the surface. All marine life use sound to communicate, find food and avoid danger. Now with ships, seismic surveys, speedboats and drilling platforms and those sounds traveling for miles, marine life is in peril.

A review titled "The soundscape of the Anthropocene ocean" confirms what science has known for a century; anthropogenic noise is unbearable for undersea life.

Full article

Mountains to Sound Greenway Education Program Goes Virtual

Mountains to Sound Greenway Zoom virtual education

Puget The Mountains to Sound Greenway Education Program was among the many informal environmental education programs essentially shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. They had to cancel programming for over 2,000 students during spring 2020 when the outbreak began. To support remote learning for students, they transformed two of their most popular curriculums into video series paired with at-home activities, including Forest and Fins, which was supported by WRIA 8 funding.

If you are interested in becoming a Clean Water Ambassador intern

Something was killing baby salmon. Scientists traced it to a food-web mystery

A tray at the Livingston National Fish Hatchery near Shasta Dam contains offspring of endangered female winter-run Sacramento River chinook salmon that scientists injected with thiamine, also known as vitamin B1. A puzzling deficiency of the vitamin is afflicting baby salmon in California. (Heather Bell / UC Davis)

Salmon fry in California are suffering from an apparent Thiamine vitamin B1 deficiency that is threatening fish and other wildlife worldwide. Federal scientists and hatchery workers decided to bathe young fry in vitamin-enriched water, and they began to thrive and react normally. Lennart Balk, an environmental biochemist from Stockholm University led a study titled "Widespread episodic thiamine deficiency in Northern Hemisphere wildlife" and has been documenting thiamine deficiencies from the Baltic Sea for decades.

Read full article.

Salmon in the news

Report: Washington salmon are struggling

Spring Chinook salmon. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

With 69 populations of chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout listed under the Endangered Species Act, Puget Sound salmon are not close to recovery according to the 2020 State of Salmon in Watersheds report released by the Washington Governor's Salmon Recovery Office. However, great strides towards recovery have been made with 3,000 fish passage barriers corrected, 20,000 acres of riparian areas restored, and 3,400 miles of stream made accessible to salmon.

Read full article.

Issaquah Creek Benefits from the Bounty of the North Pacific
By Larry Franks, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery Board and WRIA 8 Salmon Recovery Council member.
It is easy to be impressed by the grandeur of the returning adult salmon — 12 to 14-pound Chinook and 4 to 6-pound coho, of which the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery was able to pass 3,000 upstream to spawn naturally! But how about the "off season," when the adults are not in the stream? Their presence, and legacy, are well-known to the local wildlife. The adults bring critical nutrients back from the ocean, depositing those nutrients in the stream in which they have returned to spawn. The Issaquah Hatchery is visited year-round by those animals which know this location in their millennia-old instincts. Beavers, otters, raccoons, green herons, great blue herons, mergansers, and mallards (NOT vegetarians, as many children note with horror!). While the Hatchery remains closed to the public due to the COVID pandemic, at some point (hopefully soon) people will be allowed back to share the wonder of this plentitude from the sea, brought inland by these marvelous creatures.

Shore Friendly

Wood in the River: Good News and Bad
By Larry Franks, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery Board and WRIA 8 Salmon Recovery Council member
After the highly informative presentation on the measures of beneficial wood in local salmon-bearing streams at the January WRIA 8 Salmon Recovery Council, I got a hands-on education just now, during a walkabout of Confluence Park, in Issaquah. As the name suggests, the park surrounds the confluence of the East Fork and the main stem of Issaquah Creek, right on the edge of 'downtown' Issaquah. Streamflow below the confluence at the time was about 300 cubic feet per second (cfs). (For a yearly perspective, Issaquah Creek crested at about 1,300 cfs during last February's flood, and drops to 20+ cfs for the low flows of the summer.)

The power of water is the 'Good News' here, where the Creek is doing its natural thing, meandering, which then undermines and topples the 100-year-old trees along its banks. They help form the pool-riffle sequence that then harbor immature salmon and a host of other living creatures. One of the trees dropped in the creek (not there on our last visit 2 weeks ago) is still covered with the scourge of English Ivy, that has not even wilted yet!

The 'Bad News' is one of the meanders has undermined the parking lot for a local public school, and the plan is to armor that bank, which will indeed greatly delay the progress of the meander, but at the expense of lost riparian habitat. If I had a magic wand, I would relocate the school with a wave, and let the river do its work. I do not, but the School District is open to alternatives!

Proposal to breach Lower Snake River Dams

The Lower Snake River dams, built in the 1960s and '70s, are the youngest in the Columbia/Snake system. Salmon and steelhead have since had some good years but mostly been in decline. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

Congressman Mike Simpson from eastern Idaho is seeking support for a proposal to breach the four Lower Snake River hydroelectric dams. This $34 billion dollar proposal would allow salmon passage to support recovery and honor tribal treaty fishing rights in the Columbia Basin.

Read full article.

Tire-derived chemical killing coho salmon

Please watch a presentation by Jen McIntyre and Ed Kolodziej from the Washington Stormwater Center on the tire-derived chemical killing coho salmon.

We must work together to save treasured Lake Washington sockeye — Seattle Times Op-Ed

Jeremy James, Chair of the Muckleshoot Fish Commission, and Kelly Susewind, Director of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, share their perspective on what is needed to save the Lake Washington sockeye population.

Full article.

In Response: The Lake Washington sockeye: Hatchery is not the way

Coastal Watershed grant award to Snohomish County's Meadowdale project

Snohomish County was awarded one of only two Restore America's Estuaries Coastal Watershed grants to projects in Puget Sound (out of eight nation-wide) for the Meadowdale project. Congratulations!

Puget Sound 2021 Virtual Days on the Hill

Puget Sound Partnership and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission are hosting virtual Puget Sound Days on the Hill on Fridays in April and May with the Washington congressional delegation, federal officials, and special guests. These virtual forums offer an opportunity to discuss Puget Sound restoration and protection, salmon recovery efforts, climate change adaptation and mitigation, infrastructure improvements, among other topics. WRIA 8 partners are encouraged to attend any or all of these sessions beginning on Friday, 4/23 from 1:00-2:30p through Friday, 5/21.

King Conservation District 2021 Board Elections

Candidate filings for King Conservation District Board Position #2 are complete. Ten candidates filed for the open position, and ballots will be available on 3/1, at 8:00 a.m. All votes must be submitted by 3/23 by 5:00 p.m. or postmarked by 3/23 and received by King County Elections by 3/25. Find more information.

Puget Sound Stewardship & Mitigation Fund

Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment is pleased to announce the opportunity to apply to the Spring 2021 Puget Sound Stewardship & Mitigation Fund. The Fund is open to organizations of any size. Grants will be awarded up to a maximum of $30,000. Project proposals with strong community involvement and participation are especially encouraged to apply. Deadline to apply is March 12th.

Volunteers needed for our 14th year of Lake Sammamish Kokanee fry counting.

Help save Lake Sammamish kokanee! Three Rivers is hosting a training session on Sunday, February 28th at 11:00 am at the Lewis Creek site located at 4113 185th Pl SE, Issaquah, WA 98027, in the Lake Sammamish Basin. Fry counting begins on Tuesday, March 2nd just before sunset and will last for three one-hour sets. Volunteers will be asked to place and check the fry traps, record data, and report to the Fry Master. COVID safety protocols are in place with a maximum of three people allowed for each shift. Email for more information or to volunteer.

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.