Salmon return with creek project’s end
A four-phase project to return salmon to a creek in Mukilteo is finished – and already fish have been seen passing through.
The city didn’t do the $185,000 Fish Passage Project to improve fish passage through Japanese Gulch Creek on it’s own, but through partnerships with more than 10 agencies, including Paine Field Airport, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Edmonds Community College.
“This project represents a multi-agency effort to remove fish passage barriers in Japanese Gulch,” Mayor Joe Marine said. “We’re thankful for all of their support in helping to fund this wonderful project.”
An awards ceremony and ribbon cutting was held Oct. 13 in the lower Japanese Gulch to celebrate the completion of the project. Mukilteo received two awards.
The city, Paine Field and EdCC received the VISION 2040 Award from the Puget Sound Regional Council for their work on the project. The award recognizes innovative projects and programs that help ensure a sustainable future as the region grows.
Mukiteo’s Patricia Love, assistant director of community development, also received the Lifetime Environmental Achievement Award from the Friends of Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary for her leadership and vision to accomplish environmental protection and enhancement. It was the third ever to be awarded.
Assistant City Engineer Jim Niggemyer said he expects to see more salmon after the first rains, and that the city will be getting fish and wildlife counts soon.
Niggemyer said it was a very rewarding project, not only because it will improve fish passage in the creek, but because of the collaborative effort between agencies.
“With the number of people working together you get different ideas and do things differently,” he said. “Every time you turned around, something got better.”
The city partnered in 2009 with Snohomish County Airport to improve fish passage in the creek.
Phase 1 included adding a combination of baffles and boulders to concentrate and deepen the flow of water through an existing culvert. It was finished in July 2010.
Phase 2 included a fish ladder from the stream up the culvert to give fish more habitat. Fish will make three smaller jumps instead of trying – and often failing – to make an 18-inch leap. It was done in October 2010.
Phase 3 involved the realignment or diversion of the creek from its existing engineered channel to the historical channel. The city just finished this phase.
Phase 4 involved connecting the creek with a nearby wetland with another fish ladder. This phase was also just finished.
“We have already seen fish in the Phase 3 and 4 restoration area,” Marine said. “We are making a meaningful environmental difference here in Japanese Gulch.”
Paine Field funded Phases 1 and 2 and the design of Phase 3 with $150,000 in stream-mitigation funds. The rest was funded with the city’s Stormwater Fund.
Mukilteo also partnered in 2011 with Edmonds Community College after archeologists found historical and cultural artifacts in Japanese Gulch.
Together, they created an anthropology and archeology field-training program that allowed students to excavate the site and recover remnants of the Japanese community that called the gulch home in the early 1900s.
“Without the support of the college and all of the student involvement, our project would have stopped with the fish ladder,” Marine said. “Phases 3 and 4 would not have been possible.”
The project had been delayed until the site could be excavated, as required by state law. The city redesigned the project so that it avoided impacting the archeological site.
EdCC students will also help the city by providing fish and wildlife counts.