Salmon recovery efforts go on in area streams
June 11, 2008 · Updated 10:53 AM
"Before Hood Canal summer chum and Puget Sound chinook were listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, local environmentalists were butting heads with commissioners, community planners and developers over creek preservation.Some local creek activists say the county has opened up to restoring salmon habitat and protecting critical areas from development. But local developers see the county's regulations as detrimental to the healthy growth of the area. Dan Baskins, a lobbyist for Kitsap County landowners and developers, said the county should deal with growth management in a more constructive way. Every regulation has an unintended consequence, he said. I'd like to see the county see problems with what they're intending to do and see some understanding with how pervasive this is.Here's how restoration has progressed at three area creeks:Barker CreekThe present county commissioners have been extremely supportive of the Barker Creek corridor, said Mary Bertrand, president of the Chums of Barker Creek. In addition, property owners are showing an active interest in preserving the integrity of Barker Creek.The good news is that there are incredible amounts of property owners along the Barker Creek corridor that are very protective of the stream, she said.Last spring, the Chums hosted a salmon awareness festival at the Island Lake Community Center.Students from Olympic High School and Klahowya Secondary School presented the results of their studies of local creeks. I'd like to have more of those salmon awareness festivals. One of our goals is to continue working with schools in our watershed, Bertrand said. The Suquamish Tribe placed 200,000 in an egg box in a stream off Barker Creek earlier this year and those eggs have already hatched, Bertrand said. Tribal fisheries officials come out every day to open the pipe so fingerlings can escape.Because the fall chum that hatch from the box are not fed or cared for after they're released, they are considered a natural run. Tribal officials can tell some are returning as adults to spawn because they break off from Barker Creek and try to swim up the thin stream where the egg box was installed. They're too big and have to turn back. If it was all bad news, I think I'd just say, 'forget it, it's not worth it,' Bertrand said. Given the support from the county commissioners, it'll become a permanent salmon stream.Right now we do have leaders who are certainly more sensitive to the protection of ... natural resources than, say, six years ago, Bertrand said. There is a strong element of people who do not want to see all these natural resources disappear in Kitsap County.Mosher CreekNow that construction around Mosher Creek is almost complete, residents hope the general health of the watershed continues to improve. Mosher Creek residents fought long battles to preserve the integrity of the creek after they discovered silt surging down the waterway from a housing development.We noticed construction projects that didn't seem to follow the recommendations set by various agencies, said Richard Lindberg, who lives on the creek. The more we checked, we found, yeah, they have these regulations, but they're completely ignoring them.In 1993, Lindberg's daughter sued the county and won after commissioners refused to show plans for the housing development.A large contractor has an awful lot of influence in the county, Lindberg said. The developer had a lobbyist down at the courthouse almost every day.Myrna Campbell, who also lives on Mosher Creek, said the problems with the county ended around 1998.It's so much better, she said. (Commissioners) have been wonderfully supportive, especially Chris (Endresen). The project over here is in her territory. When we had dirtying of the water, I could call her.A couple of times, she was out there herself on her time off. She would make the necessary phone calls to stop work, Campbell said.Mosher Creek residents organized a watchdog community that keeps an eye on the creek and reports any mishaps or potential violations to commissioners. Their main focus currently is teaching people how to care for the watershed.We've got quite a network of people, Campbell said. If they see silt in the bay, they tell us and we try to track down where it's coming from.Progress has been made, Lindberg said, although there is more work to be done. We're just trying to get the public involved more than have been, he said.Big Beef CreekResearchers at the University of Washington Big Beef Creek Fish Station have been monitoring the effects of development on salmon for years. Development is driving our habitat problems, said Steve Neuhauser, a fish biologist with state Fish and Wildlife.A proliferation of paved surfaces and poor stormwater management has contributed to the destruction of fertile creek beds in which spawning salmon lay their eggs.Natural factors, including predators and sickness, compound losses, resulting in fewer numbers of returning adult salmon.This year, researchers caught returning adults and released them upstream to spawn naturally, Neuhauser said. They'll catch the juveniles on the way out and count them to see how successfully they spawn in the creek.Researchers at Big Beef have discovered that packing more adults in a stream won't necessarily result in more fry. They charted a graph depicting the maximum number of fry against the number of adults. What we want to do ... is to get enough adults to produce the maximum number of smolt, despite environmental conditions, Neuhauser said.Researchers at Big Beef are concerned about a 15- to 20-year continual decline in the rate of marine survival for coho. Last year was the lowest number of returning adults in 23 years, Neuhauser said, calling the decline a death spiral.Because researchers don't know what factors contribute to marine survival, they don't know how to improve the numbers. What can be changed, though, is the negative impacts humans have on environment.The coho are heading to the same spot as the chinook on some rivers, Neuhauser said. We're a year or two away."