September 28, 1998
Boat races postponed to protect salmon
by Andrew Walgamott
WOODINVILLE--Boat races scheduled for last weekend on the Sammamish River were canceled to protect salmon runs.
With low, warm water stressing some species of salmon making the dash from Lake Washington to spawning grounds, city officials postponed the kayak and canoe races indefinitely last week.
Doug Hennick, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife Area Habitat biologist, said a boater encountering a salmon could be enough to kill the fish.
The water temperature in the Sammamish is warm enough to be stressful and/or lethal to salmon. Hennick said salmon are making their way up the river from one thermal refuge, like underground springs and shady coves, to another. These refuges allow the fish to keep their body temperature down.
If a boater were to scare a stressed salmon out of a sanctuary, it could be "enough to send it to the great beyond," Hennick said.
The warm water is being blamed on the long, hot, dry summer the area has experienced, as well as a general lack of shade on the river. Hennick says temperatures over 68 degrees are bad for fish like salmon and trout. Those species have specialized enzymes that work best in cold water, he said.
Wendy Walsh, a resident of upper Bear Creek who is a member of the Water Tenders group, says it's best to stay out of the river from late August through November because that's when salmon use the stream to get to spawning grounds like Bear Creek and Little Bear Creek.
Hennick said sockeye and Chinook are migrating now, and cohos will begin their two-month run in mid-October.
Groups like Water Tenders are raising awareness about the importance of forest cover on habitat. In a recent newsletter Walsh warns that aerial surveys show the amount of trees in the Bear Creek drainage is approaching a threshold that state Department of Natural Resources studies have shown as necessary in order to maintain the integrity of watersheds.
On October 24, volunteers will plant trees along the Sammamish in four different spots; Woodinville, Bothell, Redmond and unincorporated King County. Call Doug Osterman at (206) 296-8069 for more information.
The event coincides with Woodinville's planting of Wilmot Gateway Park.
Call Lane Youngblood, 489-2700, to receive a volunteer packet.
Cindy Shelton, city recreation programmer, said the boat races, which were part of National Health and Fitness Day, may be done next spring associated with an event like Celebrate Woodinville.