August 19, 2002
Up the fish staircase
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
It rises out of Little Bear Creek looking like the Loch Ness Monster. Instead, it's a monstrous intake hose resembling the long neck of a prehistoric creature.
The large attachment with intake screen at the end of the hose mimics its ferocious head. A crane has just lifted it out of the water and it dangles in the air like a man-eating beast in search of prey before it's lowered back down.
"It's a dinosaur!" the bridge maintenance supervisor calls out, smiling to his crew. Since Aug. 12, the men have been working at Little Bear Creek and Northeast 205th in a construction project that will aid the dwindling runs of salmon by improving fish passage.
Partnering with the City of Woodinville, Snohomish County Public Works undertakes the construction process and expects completion at the end of August 2002.
City Surface Water Engineer Yosh Monzaki says the county will install logs across the creek and step channel the bed, explaining, "We're installing a series of four log weirs and bank stabilization. It's kind of like a staircase."
He says the project, funded through grant resources and the city, creates a deeper pond at the culvert. "Basically, so the fish have an easier time getting into the culvert." He adds that the improvement will help fish to expend less effort by helping them maneuver the creek with more ease when they return this fall. He emphasizes, "We're trying to reduce their effort."
The city and county hope the improvements to the creek will increase the number of salmon runs at Little Bear Creek, which have declined in past years, especially the number of Chinook, also known as king salmon.
City Planning Technician Debra Crawford recently wrote about the Chinook's plight. "These fish, which once abounded in the Puget Sound and in its larger stream systems, have declined dramatically during the last 15 to 20 years. In May 1999, the federal government listed the Puget Sound Chinook salmon as threatened under the Endangered Species Act."
She goes on to write that the City of Woodinville has identified five fish projects that will benefit all species, including the Chinook, on Little Bear Creek and states, "The project includes culvert removal, weir replacement, riprap replacement with bio-engineered techniques, restoration and habitat acquisition."
Restoration of the creek's banks at this site will also take place in late September or early October.
Says Monzaki, "Volunteers will plant the banks with native plants. Mostly conifer type plants, like cedars and Douglas fir." He adds, "One of the reasons it's important to plant trees is to keep the corridor cooler." Salmon need cooler water temperatures for their survival and Monzaki says that Little Bear Creek typically has a cooler temperature than the Sammamish River due to more tree cover.
The community will have the opportunity to view the salmon this fall at many sites along Little Bear Creek including the site at Northeast 205th, an area northeast of Woodinville High School.
Says Monzaki, "You will see them jumping into the culvert."
Barriers, such as culverts, dikes and tide gates, have become a contributing factor to declining fish populations as well as human disturbances such as pollution and habitat destruction and degradation.
According to Crawford, salmon runs may increase their numbers with community involvement. She writes, "Citizens are encouraged to participate in recovery efforts. Most meetings and documents are open to public comment and review. There are also many public outreach programs geared towards volunteer participation such as the Salmon Watcher Program and the Sammamish Releaf Restoration Project.
"¼We must be willing to work together to explore ways to help salmon recover and to resolve water resource conflicts."