Salmon are surging into Bellevue streams this fall, following a year when hundreds were sighted in Kelsey Creek.
“With the recent rains, they’re really starting to show up,” said Kit Paulsen, Bellevue’s stream scientist. “Fish populations fluctuate widely, so you can’t really do a year-to-year comparison, but it will be interesting to see if we get as high a count as last fall.”
Spawning surveys in 2006 recorded over 200 chinook and more than 500 sockeye salmon in Kelsey Creek. In addition, salmon were seen in some streams for the first time since 2002.
Building on Bellevue’s tradition of stewardship, the city is pursuing an expanded package of “green” measures focusing on the city’s tree canopy, the expansion of recycling at parks and ball fields, natural drainage practices and buildings that conserve energy.
Protecting streams and other sensitive areas is a priority for Bellevue. Recently, the City Manager and City Council have identified environmental stewardship as one of the city’s top citywide initiatives.
Paulsen said Bellevue’s history of protecting streams and wetlands and making fish-friendly projects a priority have definitely paid off.
Stream restoration work in recent years has occurred throughout the city – at Mercer Slough, East Creek at Kamber Road, Valley Creek, Richards Creek, Coal Creek and Lower Newport Creek. New fish ladders and culverts and habitat enhancement have all made it easier for salmon to migrate and access Bellevue streams.
In addition to fish-friendly capital projects, Bellevue’s Stream Team volunteers and local businesses and service clubs are also doing their part to improve habitat. Volunteers remove invasive blackberry bushes from streams, put native plants in stream corridors, place logs and other wood features in streams, check water quality and document when and where they see salmon.
“Much of a salmon’s life cycle occurs in the ocean, which is out of our control,” said Paulsen. “But there’s a lot we can do to improve access to local waters.”
Salmon are fragile and their sensitivity to water conditions makes them excellent indicators of water pollution. To be healthy and spawn, salmon need cool, clean water, streamside vegetation and stable stream flows. Once salmon spawn, it takes about 14 weeks for the eggs to develop into fry. Salmon fry live in Bellevue’s streams from a few days to a year before they make their way to the ocean.
“The data from Salmon Watcher volunteers tells us how salmon are using Bellevue’s streams and helps us target salmon recovery work,” said Paulsen. “Not seeing salmon at a particular site is as important as seeing them, because it may mean poor water quality or a blockage that needs to be opened up.”
Salmon in Bellevue
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