Northwest NEWS

July 6, 1998

Local News

Sims' early salmon plan would fund watershed work on the Sammamish

   by Andrew Walgamott
   Staff reporter

   Over $600,000 in funding would go towards projects in the Sammamish River watershed under a $4.6 million salmon run restoration and habitat improvement plan proposed last week by King County Executive Ron Sims.
   Work on the Sammamish is one of 17 river projects across the county that a citizen panel recommended even as the Puget Sound Chinook salmon is being studied for protection under federal law.
   "These are actions we can take now while we work on a strong recovery plan that will protect our dwindling salmon runs," Sims said.
   On the Sammamish, money would go for water quality and habitat improvements, according to Doug Osterman, Sammamish Watershed coordinator.
   He said several tributaries that drain from hanging culverts into the Sammamish would be reconnected to the river to provide fish access into cooler waters. Near Marymoor Park in Redmond, a river meander would be recreated and pools would be made in the channel.
   Construction may not begin until late this year or 1999.
   The river is a weak link in salmon habitat, according to the county. Naturally warm from Lake Sammamish, it sometimes takes a cooling rain for salmon to bolt up from Lake Washington.
   The balance of funding would be spent in almost every watershed in the county, including work on Harris Creek near Duvall and land buys on the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie.
   Funds for Sims' plan would come from a supplemental budget request the Executive proposed in late May. The County Council has the final say.
   King County is reacting to last February's proposal by the National Marine Fisheries Services to protect the Chinook by listing it as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. After scientific evaluation and public comment, the service will decide the status of the fish and determine what protective steps need to be taken.
   In the meanwhile, King County was directed by the state to come up with a regional plan to restore runs and avoid tough federal laws that could come with the listing. With early implementation acts like this one on the Sammamish, the county is hoping to show federal regulators that saving the Chinook is a local priority.
   Seeking additional funding, two members of the County Council went to Washington D.C. recently. Reportedly, a bill now in the U.S. Senate may provide another $20 million for salmon recovery. An appropriation could come in September.
   In a completely separate project, a mile's worth of trees will be planted along the Sammamish River in Bothell, Woodinville, King County and Bothell to better shade it. Unshaded water leads to higher stream temperatures which kill fish, Osterman said.