October 30, 2000
Sammamish ReLeaf helps salmon
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
The sun was shining and the salmon were swimming on Oct. 7. On that day, 250 people turned out to plant trees in an area just north of Wilmot Park where Little Bear Creek and the Sammamish converge.
School groups, moms, scouts, dads, City employees and elected officials, young adults from Earth Corp. and many others gathered to plant 3,500 trees and shrubs.
According to Assistant to the City Manager, Deborah Knight, it was an amazing sight to see.
"It was really like a festival. It wasn't like a work day," she said.
People brought their families and snacks were provided. And as the volunteers plunged shovels into dirt, the salmon could be seen in the clear waters of the Sammamish River as they swam upstream on their homeward voyage.
People feel happy, Knight said, when they're doing something positive for their community. And everyone who volunteered for the planting event not only linked with the community, but also with the land.
"The day gives people an opportunity to make a connection with the earth," she added.
But the salmon benefited most from the day's event. When the big leaf maples, Sitka spruce, Douglas fir and hazelnut and snowberry shrubs are fully grown, the greenery will shade and cool the river.
For salmon, the water temperature is important and they need cool water to survive their long trek upstream. In the summer of 1999, the salmon had to struggle while swimming in areas of the Sammamish that aren't shaded.
"The water was simply too warm," said Knight. She explained that many salmon were lost that summer. Salmon stop eating once they leave salt water and enter fresh water. Without eating and already stressed from the long distance they have to travel up river to spawn, many salmon die before their journey ends.
However, the City is taking steps to restore salmon habitat and bring back the cool water the salmon need.
The Sammamish ReLeaf event is one of those steps. Knight said that five to ten thousand Sockeye salmon go into Little Bear Creek each year. When the trees and shrubs planted by volunteers grow into a green canopy of shade over the Sammamish, the salmon will have cooler water to traverse and survive before reaching Little Bear Creek.
The next ReLeaf event has not been determined but is coming up. "We're planning the next event right now," Knight said.
The area chosen for habitat restoration needs accessibility, visibility and, of course, a location that will benefit salmon.
Said Knight, "There are a lot of considerations that go into choosing a site."
The Sammamish ReLeaf event began three years ago and is a joint effort with the cities of Bothell, Redmond, Issaquah and King County. The effort is funded by the Sammamish Watershed Forum and is part of Global ReLeaf for the Puget Sound, a cooperative effort to plant one million trees for the new millennium.