LLTK News

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Photograph of a road covered in running water, with yellow trees along one side brightly lit by the sun. A chum salmon is swimming, half-submerged, across the road's surface, towards the brushy undergrowth on the other side.

Salmon and Floods

Our hearts are with everyone affected by the flooding in Washington and British Columbia this week. Intense rains and floods in the Northwest are becoming more common, a consequence of climate change. Major flooding is also a concern for struggling salmon populations. Fast-moving floodwaters can scour riverbeds, washing away salmon nests and juveniles in the gravel. At the same time, heavy loads of sediment washing into streams from runoff or landslides can smother eggs and fry. 

Pacific salmon are adapted to dynamic rivers where flooding is a natural ecological process. Floods help shape habitat diversity that salmon need in their spawning rivers, creating log jams, side channels, and wetlands that are part of a healthy ecosystem. Human changes to the landscape, however, make it harder to absorb the impacts of flooding, at the same time as the warming climate means more rain and more severe floods. Deforestation makes hillsides more prone to erosion and landslides, which dump sediment into spawning habitat. Former floodplains drained for development or farming mean less room for floodwaters to spread out and slow down, putting both human infrastructure and salmon nests in harm’s way.

Photo of a road through an autumn forest, covered in several inches of running water brightly lit by the sun. A chum salmon is swimming across the road, surrounded by splashing water as it swims.
A chum salmon swims across the flooded road in the Skokomish Valley.

Along the Skokomish River, near our Hood Canal field station, the shallow stream channel naturally overflows during heavy fall rains. Today, this means the increasingly common sight of salmon crossing flooded roads in the valley. When the floodwaters recede, these fish are often stranded, unable to find their way back to the stream and their spawning grounds. For salmon populations already at risk, the combined effects of development and increasing floods are cause for serious concern.

In addition to taking action to limit climate change, communities and scientists are using green infrastructure to increase flood resilience for both salmon and people. Habitat restoration projects combat erosion and create areas where water can slow down and be safely stored in wetlands. Programs like Floodplains by Design work locally to protect farms and infrastructure from flooding, improving salmon habitat at the same time. Urban rain gardens store and clean stormwater before it reaches streams. These strategies work with natural systems to manage the risks from flooding, with mutual benefits for salmon runs and sustainable communities.

LLTK is concerned about the impacts these events have on salmon and steelhead as we face the reality that they are occurring more frequently. That is why we work with the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council, Tribes, local governments and businesses, our state legislature and Congress to identify and provide funding for the most important actions to help salmon recover and thrive in a changing climate. It’s also why we are building regional and international partnerships to better understand the impacts of climate change in both freshwater and marine environments. These recent events are a reminder of the force of nature, and how our shared decisions can affect outcomes for salmon and people.

Read more: 10 ways YOU can help salmon, including by starting your own rain garden.

Survive the Sound Native Fish Designs Request for Proposal

Project Description:

Long Live the Kings (LLTK), a Seattle-based nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring wild salmon and steelhead and supporting sustainable fishing, is seeking Native artists to illustrate new fish designs to be entered in the 2022 Survive the Sound fish race. Survive the Sound is an annual education and outreach campaign dedicated to raising awareness about salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest. Participants choose from 48 illustrated fish, representing data from real fish, to track during a 5-day migration each May. These fish designs seek to provide a visual representation of Native art in Survive the Sound and increase learning relevancy for Puget Sound students about Indigenous perspectives on salmon and salmon recovery. LLTK may reproduce the final image online, in printable educational materials, and on products including Survive the Sound apparel.

How to Apply:

Please email the following details to Jack McDermott (jmcdermott@lltk.org):

  • Name & contact information
  • A brief statement explaining your connection to Pacific Northwest tribes and why you want to do this work.
  • Past artwork, portfolio, or relevant work experience.
  • Preferred deliverable option (see below)

Your application will be reviewed by staff from LLTK, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, and Salmon Defense. We intend to select both a youth artist (under 18) and an adult artist (over 18) to commission one final fish design each.

Due Date: Proposal is due December 31, 2021, and the final design by selected artists will be due January 31, 2022.

Deliverables & Compensation:

  • Option 1: Artist designs fish avatar by hand (any medium acceptable) for LLTK’s illustrator to digitize. Artist will work with LLTK & illustrator to create an accurate representation of artist’s design in a vector file format. Artist will deliver a scanned PDF or high-quality image of illustrated fish design. Artist receives compensation of $150.
  • Option 2: Artist designs fish avatar and delivers digital vector file. Artist may need to work with LLTK to ensure avatar reflects the general Survive the Sound style and follows the appropriate formatting guidelines. Artist will deliver a vector file (Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, etc.) with fish design of at least 800×300 pixels and at high resolution (300 ppi). Artist receives compensation of $250.

How to Design Your Fish Avatar: Use the following template (link here) to draft or illustrate your fish design. Your avatar’s design should follow the general shape of the reference fish, but creativity is encouraged! Visit this page to reference previous fish avatar designs. A draft fish design is not required upon application.

 

Outdoor photo of four children in hooded raincoats facing away from the camera, standing on logs to look over a fence at a forest creek.

Where to See Salmon in Washington State

Viewing a salmon run in the Pacific Northwest is a powerful experience. We’ve put together this list of salmon watching locations from organizations around Washington State, so you can see this epic migration in your own community. Don’t see your favorite public viewing spot here? Let us know so we can add it!

Tips for Salmon Viewing

  • Give salmon space, and stay out of the stream. They are working hard, and if you’re near the spawning grounds, the streambed may already contain redds (nests of salmon eggs). Walking in the water disturbs the fish and can kill the eggs. Learn how to spot a redd.

  • Polarized sunglasses can make it easier to see fish in the water. 

  • Learn about the different species and their behavior. The local organizations below have great resources. You can also find an identification guide from Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife here.

  • Observe the whole environment. Is the streambed rocks, sand, gravel, or a combination? Are there trees shading the water? What’s the weather like? What other animals do you see using this habitat? How much human influence can you see?

  • Bring the experience home by taking action. We have 10 ways you can help save salmon, from building a healthier environment, to contributing to science, to sharing your salmon love with your friends, family, and leaders. Many of the links below also have ways you can volunteer for salmon recovery! 

P.S. Salmon viewing can be an at-home experience too! Watch salmon returning to the Issaquah Hatchery on their live feed here. And you can join our Hood Canal steelhead underwater any time at LLTK’s livestreaming Fish Camera! 

Long Live the Kings logo (dark blue text with a grey salmon leaping between the words)

Science Project Manager

Interviews for this position are underway. While the position is still open, please keep this information in mind if you are considering applying. Thank you for you interest in working with LLTK.

About Long Live the Kings (LLTK)

Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986, we have been advancing science, improving management, and implementing solutions to balance the needs of fish and people. LLTK envisions a sustainable Northwest with a growing human population, a thriving economy, and flourishing salmon runs. 

Our 26-member Board of Directors, and 13 dedicated staff members seek broad involvement to help us accomplish our goals.  Our core values include collaboration, innovation, accountability, and inclusivity.  Our staff are located in Seattle, Hood Canal, and Orcas Island, and work throughout western Washington and the Pacific Northwest. Learn more about us in our 2025 Strategic Roadmap, and on our website

Position Summary – Science Project Manager

This new team member will use their scientific, technical, and project management expertise to help LLTK advance science and implement solutions for salmon recovery and sustainable fisheries. This is a full-time position focused on managing existing projects, developing and implementing new projects, and ultimately influencing the trajectory of salmon recovery. 

The Science Project Manager will report to the Associate Director for Government Relations and Special Projects and collaborates across all departments. If you are a scientific, creative, and strategic thinker, have experience collecting, analyzing, and visualizing technical data with qualitative and quantitative methods, have developed and implemented collaborative research and/or salmon conservation projects, possess strong writing and presentation skills, and are excited to engage with diverse stakeholders on a wide range of projects, we hope to hear from you. 

Key Responsibilities

  • Works collaboratively in a team environment across all levels of staff and the Board of Directors to develop and implement research projects that typically engage a varied group of stakeholders within the salmon research community. This includes securing project funding for existing and new priorities
  • Facilitates discussions and decision-making processes, including multi-party, multi-disciplinary, multi-agency project-related meetings; scientific discussions; workshops; conference sessions; stakeholder sessions; and technical science team meetings to develop research or apply science to management and conservation actions 
  • Coordinates and manages project contracts, subcontracts, and associated reporting and deliverables
  • Identifies and obtains appropriate scientific and regulatory permits to conduct project work
  • Designs and executes technical studies, including data collection and statistical analysis
  • Develops scientific reports, issue papers, project progress reports, work plans, strategic planning documents, monitoring and adaptive management plans, grant applications, and outreach/communications materials
  • Communicates project progress and results to diverse technical and non-technical audiences through presentations, reports, and public-facing communications materials in conferences, webinars, or public forums
  • Consults on technical issues related to project activities and hatchery operations across the organization 
  • Builds and maintains relationships with state, federal, tribal, local, and nonprofit project partners around the region
  • As needed, effectively seeks guidance from and shares information with scientific resources outside the organization
  • Provides input on the vision and strategic direction of the organization
  • Participates fully in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, and works to apply a DEI lens to project work

Ideal Experience, Skills, & Qualifications

  • Developing, implementing, facilitating, synthesizing, and managing multi-party, collaborative scientific projects, assessments, or experiments
  • Providing guidance on and applying the latest science and state of the knowledge to salmon restoration actions, and managing proof of concept projects
  • Collecting, analyzing, and visualizing technical data with qualitative and quantitative methods for scientific writing, progress reports, technical reports, and/or manuscripts
  • Managing contract budgets, schedules, and associated deliverables
  • Communicating progress and results of technical projects to diverse technical and non-technical audiences through presentations, reports, and public-facing communications materials
  • Desire to be a part of our diversity, equity, and inclusion work as it moves forward
  • Proven work experience in fisheries biology, ecology, natural resources management, environmental science, conservation science, or closely related field
  • Bachelor’s degree, or a more advanced degree, in fisheries biology, ecology, natural resources management, environmental science, conservation science, or closely related field (or an equivalent combination of education and experience that provides the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the duties and responsibilities as described)

Additional Experience, Skills, & Qualifications

  • Conducting climate resiliency and/or salmon diversity projects, or relevant education in those fields 
  • Familiarity with technical aspects of hatchery practices and issues in salmon management and conservation
  • Experience giving public presentations
  • Passion for protecting and stewarding nature and wildlife
  • Competencies in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), R, GIS, and/or equivalent data analysis platforms
  • Experience writing grants, or assisting with them 
  • History of peer-reviewed manuscripts, white papers, technical reports
  • Fieldwork experience in the nearshore and marine environments
  • Existing network of Puget Sound environmental and/or salmon recovery professionals
  • Experience working with diverse partners and stakeholders
  • Ability to work independently in a remote environment
  • Leadership role(s) in prior paid and/or volunteer positions

Compensation, Benefits, & Location

$62,000-78,000 annual salary, depending upon qualifications. Generous benefits provided including:

  • Paid Time Off (Vacation, Sick, Holiday, Personal)
  • Health Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Health Reimbursement Account (HRA)
  • 401k with matching opportunities (after one year of full-time employment) 5%
  • Long Term Disability Insurance
  • Flex Spending Account 
  • Dependent Care FSA
  • ORCA Pass for commuting

This position is based in downtown Seattle (5th & University) in our administrative offices but will be remote/hybrid during Covid-19; the ability to work remotely is necessary at this time.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Both staff and Board have recently begun a formal process of examining ourselves and our organization with a DEI lens. Our intention is to do the work so that we can authentically embrace DEI principles as a core value that drives the success of our people, our partners, and our work. 

How to Apply

We welcome and encourage qualified people of all identities and abilities to applyPlease email to apply, letting us know where you saw the job posted or how you heard about it, and include a resume and 1-page cover letter that describes your interest in this position and your relevant qualifications and experience. Priority review given to applications received by 9/20; position open until filled. 

We look forward to receiving your materials. Please send them to Lucas Hall at lhall@lltk.org. We’re a small team and politely request that follow-up calls or emails be restricted to technical questions or necessary accommodations having to do with applying. 

Long Live the Kings logo (dark blue text with a grey salmon leaping between the words)

Finance Coordinator

About Long Live the Kings (LLTK)

Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986, we have been advancing science, improving management, and implementing solutions to balance the needs of fish and people. LLTK envisions a sustainable Northwest with a growing human population, a thriving economy, and flourishing salmon runs. 

Our 23-member Board of Directors, and 16 dedicated staff members seek broad involvement to help us accomplish our goals.  Our core values include collaboration, innovation, accountability, and inclusivity.  Our staff are located in Seattle, Hood Canal, and Orcas Island, and work throughout western Washington and the Pacific Northwest. Learn more about us in our 2025 Strategic Roadmap, and on our website

Position Summary – Finance Coordinator

Long Live the Kings is looking for an energetic and resourceful professional, someone who enjoys problem solving and has a knack for numbers. If you are a skilled bookkeeper with solid fund-accounting experience in recording day-to-day financial transactions and enjoys being part of a collaborative team and bringing fresh ideas to the table, this may be the fit for you. Your focus will primarily be on accounts payable and accounts receivable with growth potential to handle financial reporting, assist in budgets, and cash flow. The Finance Coordinator will help facilitate the daily financial workings of this ambitious non-profit, with an annual budget of roughly $3 million (www.lltk.org). The selected candidate will receive hands-on training in the industry’s leading fund accounting software; Abila MIP Fund Accounting and report directly to the Finance Director.

Key Responsibilities

Accounts Payable

  • Distribute invoices for coding and approval
  • Enter A/P and run checks
  • Maintain vendor 1099’s and year-end W-9 IRS reporting

 

Accounts Receivable

  • Generate reports for monthly and quarterly reimbursable billings and invoice accordingly
  • Track and invoice deliverable agreements

 

Cash Receipts

  • Coordinate with the development team to code donations
  • Maintain customers in MIP, this includes entering new customer ID’s and ensure it aligns with Development Departments CRM
  • Monthly Cash Receipts import as needed

 

Cash Disbursements

  • Manage credit card ledgers for corporate card holders
  • This includes entry into the accounting software

 

Financial Reporting/ Reconciliations

  • Generate fund reports and determine if appropriate indirect was taken
  • Perform monthly reconciliation of donations with Development Director and lead on any reclass entries
  • Monthly reconciliation of Credit Card Payables account

 

Administrative Duties

  • Participates fully in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, and works to apply a DEI lens to your work
  • Timesheets
    • Create new timesheets for each staff annually
    • Update when needed throughout the year
    • Ensure timesheets are received for monthly payroll
  • Enter budgets into MIP annually
  • Manage meeting invites for Finance Committee (quarterly/ as needed)
  • Send out annually and track receipt of Conflict of Interest policies
  • Ensure and track proper review and sign-off of Executive Director’s timesheet, expense reimbursements and CC ledger
  • File management both physical and uploaded into MIP (Bank Recons & Deposits)
  • Assist in annual audit
  • Point person for our general liability insurance (event and project needs)
  • Enter monthly distribution codes into MIP

Ideal Experience, Skills, & Qualifications

  • 1+ years of fund accounting experience
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office Excel
  • Excellent time management
  • Ability to work independently
  • Experience working with MIP Fund Accounting software preferred
  • Demonstrated commitment to valuing diversity and contributing to an inclusive working and learning environment, or the willingness to quickly learn and do so.

Additional Experience, Skills, & Qualifications

  • Passion for protecting and stewarding nature and wildlife
  • Experience working with diverse partners and stakeholders

Compensation, Benefits, & Location

$55,000-63,000 annual salary, depending upon qualifications. Candidates seeking an offer above this salary range need not apply. Generous benefits provided including:

  • Paid Time Off (Vacation, Sick, Holiday, Personal)
  • Health Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Health Reimbursement Account (HRA)
  • 401k with matching opportunities (after one year of full-time employment) 5%
  • Long Term Disability Insurance
  • Flex Spending Account
  • Dependent Care FSA
  • ORCA Pass for commuting

This position is based in downtown Seattle (5th & University) in our administrative offices  Some work may be remote, but regular office presence is required to execute the position’s duties.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Both staff and Board have recently begun a formal process of examining ourselves and our organization with a DEI lens. Our intention is to do the work so that we can authentically embrace DEI principles as a core value that drives the success of our people, our partners, and our work.

How to Apply

We welcome and encourage qualified people of all identities and abilities to apply. Please email to apply, letting us know in the text of the submission email where you saw the job posted or how you heard about it, and include a resume and 1-page cover letter that describes your interest in this position and your relevant qualifications and experience. Priority review given to applications received by December 22nd; position open until filled.

We look forward to receiving your materials. Please send them to Allegra Horioka at ahorioka@lltk.org. We’re a small team and politely request that follow-up calls or emails be restricted to technical questions or necessary accommodations having to do with applying.

Photo of a wide, grey body of water narrowing to a channel in the center between two green tree-covered land masses. Behind them in the distance are more hills and a cloudy sky.

Remembering Lorraine Loomis

Long Live the Kings joins all those honoring the memory of Lorraine Loomis, who died this week at the age of 81. As Director of Swinomish Fisheries and Chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Lorraine was a champion for salmon and the interests of her Tribe, her community and all people who cared about fish, fishing and the environment that supports them all. She was a beloved friend and leader for her passion, kindness, strength, and tireless commitment to a future for salmon and tribal fisheries.

The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission shares some of Lorraine’s own powerful words in their tribute to her life:

“None of us tribal natural resources managers are working for today. We are all working for tomorrow. We are working to make certain there will be salmon for the next seven generations.”

We will miss Lorraine terribly, but we’re determined to carry on her legacy in our work and efforts to guarantee that salmon will be here for this and many generations to come.

Image is a view across the Lake Washington Ship Canal from a platform with metal railings and a red metal box, looking over several docked sailboats and fishing vessels towards trees, buildings, and boats on the opposite shoreline.

Heat Wave: Seattle salmon face lethal water temperatures on a challenging migration

Last month’s record-shattering heat wave is driving an early start to lethally warm water temperatures for salmon in the Lake Washington Ship Canal. For over a week following the heat wave, water in parts of the Canal reached above 72 degrees Fahrenheit every day, a deadly threshold that weakens salmon and can kill them if they are exposed for long. Throughout the peak of sockeye migration and as threatened Chinook start to return, temperatures near the surface have stayed above 70 degrees. 

Line graph charting temperatures at four depth levels in Lake Washington Ship Canal. Between June 29 and July 9, surface temperatures (at 18ft depth) are consistently above 72 degrees, marked as the lethal threshold for salmon.

Pacific salmon are cold-water species, adapted for mountain-fed, forested rivers and cool oceans and estuaries. Healthy water temperatures for salmon are under 58 degrees. Above 59 degrees, their bodies become stressed, making them easier targets for predators and at higher risk of disease. When water temperature reaches between 70 and 72 degrees, it forms a “migration barrier,” meaning it’s too hot for salmon to swim through, and can be lethal. These extreme temperatures have a generational ripple effect in struggling salmon populations. Even if they can survive to reach their spawning grounds, fish weakened from high temperatures are less successful in reproducing. 

Image looking down on the surface of dark water. A brown harbor seal's head emerges in the center, with the tail half of a salmon in its mouth, ending in torn orange flesh.
Heat-stressed salmon are easy prey for harbor seals in the Ballard Locks.

Human alterations to the landscape, combined with climate change, have made the Lake Washington Ship Canal an especially hot, difficult passage for Seattle’s salmon. Sockeye, Chinook, and coho salmon from the Cedar and Sammamish Rivers must pass through the Ship Canal twice during their lifetime, where these deadly warm temperatures are now routine during the summer months. Temperatures climb quickly in the artificial environment of the Canal, an abrupt shift from cool salt water to warm freshwater that puts salmon under extreme stress. At the Ballard Locks, a major barrier, salmon can be seen “holding” for days or weeks, losing vital days on their spawning migration likely in part due to the need to avoid high water temperatures. Seals and sea lions are also a frequent sight at the Locks, where waiting, weakened salmon are easy prey. Biologists suspect that the combined stress of warm water and predator harassment can be a lethal combination. 

This summer’s heat wave struck earlier than usual, at the height of the returning sockeye migration. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife observed dead sockeye around the Ballard Locks fish ladder during and after the heat wave, near the transition from cold marine water to warmer fresh water. The high temperatures are expected to continue as this year’s run of Chinook salmon, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, start to return to the watershed in mid-July. But 2021 is not an isolated incident. High temperatures and low dissolved oxygen have been a known problem in the Canal for over two decades. Earlier this year, a report to the Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed (WRIA 8) Salmon Recovery Council found that the Canal is warm enough to harm salmon through almost all of the critical summer migration window. Between 2009 and 2019, surface waters were warm enough to negatively affect salmon an average of 87-92% of days from May to September. Parts of the canal are above 72 degrees, hot enough to block migration or kill salmon, between 12% and 24% of migration days. Thanks to the heat wave, 2021 is likely to push those averages even higher.

Image of five adult sockeye salmon viewed through a greenish glass. The fish on the bottom has a large gash on its back.
Sockeye in the Ballard Locks fish ladder in late July, as dangerously warm waters persist.

With climate change upon us, summer temperatures are continuing to get hotter, and more extraordinary records are likely to be broken. This summer has shown us just how dangerous these conditions can be for salmon who are already struggling. Experts agree that without addressing the Ship Canal, long-term salmon recovery in the Cedar and Sammamish watersheds will be nearly impossible. Like all climate resilience challenges, solving this complicated problem is an effort that will take action and involvement from everyone in our watershed community. 

Based on the findings from the recent Report, LLTK and WRIA 8 are partnering to address this urgent issue. We’re convening a team of government and community partners to review current science and evaluate strategies to improve salmon passage through the Canal. We’ll be working urgently over the next several months to find creative, collaborative, and long-lasting solutions to help salmon migrate more successfully through these difficult waters, with preliminary recommendations expected by early 2022. 

Funding support for the Lake Washington Ship Canal work group is provided by King County Water Works and the WRIA 8 Salmon Recovery Council.

Logo: King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks; Wastewater Treatment Division
Lake Washington Cedar Sammamish Watershed logo
Underwater photo of steelhead trout swimming in the same direction.

Live Fish Camera

Wildlife cameras help people connect with nature and see the world from another species’ perspective. Many of us have enjoyed watching fledglings in an eagle’s nest, or spotted cougars and coyotes passing through a wildlife corridor – but getting a view of life underwater is a little more challenging.

Thanks to a grant from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and some DIY ingenuity by our staff, now you can! Long Live the Kings has set up a live video feed in one of the steelhead rearing ponds at a conservation hatchery on Hood Canal. View the livestream any time from here or on our YouTube channel to spend some time with the fish. 

These steelhead (or rainbow trout, the freshwater variant of the same species) are part of an innovative conservation program that LLTK manages to support the recovery of Hood Canal’s native steelhead. Hatched from wild-spawned eggs, they are being raised here to help give natural populations a boost. When they are mature, they are released to spawn in the rivers and migrate to sea. (Watch a steelhead release here.

This is a live video feed, so visibility can vary. We clean off algae that builds up on the camera every few days. The fish are fed around 11:00am most days, which is a good time to see lots of activity! If you don’t have a good live view, you can watch a highlight here.

A rocky stream runs freely underneath a new bridge with a low guard rail. Tall trees on both banks are interspersed with blue plant guards marking new plants. Three buildings with peaked roofs are int he background among trees.

Barrier Removal Brings Coho Back to Streams

Coho salmon rely on streams and side channels for spawning and juvenile rearing before their migration to saltwater to feed, grow and mature. They typically spawn between the ages of three and four in their natal streams. Coho and other salmon are vulnerable to many stressors including blocked access to spawning grounds and habitat degradation caused by dams, culverts and past land use practices

One successful approach to restoring historic native coho and other salmon populations throughout the Pacific Northwest has included the removal of barriers to fish passage in conjunction with instream and riparian buffer habitat restoration.

One of fourteen Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups in Washington State, the nonprofit Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) in Bellingham, WA has successfully completed over 450 projects on salmon-bearing creeks in Whatcom County over its 30-year history. One of those is a channel modification and barrier removal project on a tributary of Goodwin Creek in the Sumas River watershed. Thanks to partnerships with three landowners and several state and federal agencies, a mile-long section of habitat has been reconnected with the native Pacific coho populations for the first time in over 30 years.

If You Rebuild It, They Will Come

Planning first began in 2015 to remove three fish passage barriers on private properties. “One of the great aspects about working on streams is the opportunity to get to know a diverse variety of landowners,” explains NSEA Project Manager Darrell Gray. “A project begins with a conversation about salmon, and grows over time to a variety of topics. Throughout the years, I have had the great pleasure of getting to know some amazing landowners. These three were particularly great to work with.”

Each of the three landowners came to the project with differing backgrounds, interests and needs. One 30-acre small business farm raises horses and cows. The second is an 80-acre farm and the third, owned by Rose Anne Featherston, is a 5-acre farm with a horse. 

“It was around 2014 that I contacted the Whatcom Conservation District about participating in their CREP program,” remembers Featherston of the stream that runs just meters behind her home. The CREP, or Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, is a county-based voluntary program that pays landowners to establish native tree and shrub buffers along fish-bearing streams and rivers. CREP removed about an acre of invasive blackberries and planted native plants. Native plant buffers protect water quality, develop root systems that stabilize stream banks, reduce erosion, create shade that lowers water temperature and leaf litter attracts macroinvertebrates that young salmon eat.

“When we discovered that my culvert was almost blocked, CREP connected me with NSEA.” Both Featherston and her neighbors had culverts that were too small. One culvert had a drop of more than six feet that prevented coho passage for more than three decades. But coho spotted north of the culvert were evidence that a restoration effort could be successful if done well.

The Restoration Approach

“After surveying the stream to develop project designs, it became apparent that all of the barriers should be removed at the same time to allow stored sediments behind each to move downstream, establishing a new stream gradient,” remembers Gray.

Landowners allowed NSEA teams to replace barrier culverts with two bridges and a 10’ diameter culvert as well as establish new native plantings to buffer the creek from adjacent agricultural activities.

Culvert before restoration: a wide pipe emerging from a steep hillside spilling water several feet into a stream below. A person in a blue jacket and grey hat stands to the side of the image behind branches of a tree.
Culvert site before restoration work (2016)
After restoration at the same site: a bridge with a low rail spans a v-shaped dip with a rocky stream running underneath.
Replacement bridge at the same site in 2017

Construction began in early September 2016 just in time for the fall rains and lasted more than three weeks. As the properties were all neighboring, NSEA was able to move equipment from one site to the next with the removal of a few fences. “This also allowed us to regrade the channel between sites to the anticipated new stream gradient,” explains Gray. “Large cobbles were added to the stream bed to maintain the new gradient and provide areas of slower moving water where salmon can rest.”

NSEA is required by permit to revegetate areas disturbed during instream projects. Work was completed by the NSEA team and native replantings were accomplished with help from six members of the Washington Conservation Corps(WCC), an AmeriCorps program administered by the Washington State Department of Ecology. They planted over 760 young native trees and shrubs across the three properties, including Western red cedar, Douglas fir, Pacific nine bark and black twinberry, all grown from bare-root stock in NSEA’s nursery.

Immediate Impact

“Within a few weeks of project completion, through my window I heard the first splashes of the salmon returning. It was amazing,” remembers Featherston who has since joined the NSEA Board of Directors to provide landowner perspective. “This year I’ve already seen opossum, eagles and coyotes feasting on salmon carcasses.” More than 40 species of vertebrates, including salmon, birds and mammals directly benefit from salmon runs by feasting on salmon, their eggs, carcasses or their young.

A coho salmon makes its way upstream in the restored area.

NSEA monitors their project sites—through spawner and vegetation surveys—for three to five years after completion to evaluate restoration efforts. In addition to counting live fish, NSEA counts dead fish and new and old redds (spawning nests), and records stream flow and visibility. Having been monitored 19 times since 2017, NSEA has now documented more than 230 adult salmon migrating upstream, many of which spawned within the project reach.

What Swims Ahead

This project demonstrates that removing barriers to fish passage, such as culverts and steep elevation changes, while improving native plant buffers along streams, can restore historic coho salmon runs in Pacific Northwest tributaries in just a few years.

“The great thing about NSEA is that they listen to landowners,” notes Featherston. “I’m impressed by how Darrell and NSEA never push landowners. They come up with creative solutions that meet the needs of diverse landowners and are gifted at striking that balance.”

This summer, NSEA will continue their instream and riparian restoration work further upstream to give these coho access to additional habitat further to the south.

“We have great appreciation for landowners like these that are curious, patient and accommodating participants,” adds Gray. “We hope this kind of work will help restore historic salmon populations and that these neighbors will enjoy the returning salmon for years to come.”

Celebrating 30 Years Restoring Sustainable Wild Salmon Runs in Whatcom County

“Seeing the coho and spring Chinook return to spawn in areas that we’ve cared for is just one of the things that makes all of this hard work feel more like a reward than an effort,” explains NSEA Executive Director Rachel Vasak. “It’s such a joy looking up at a tree we planted—once just a tiny seedling but now over 50-feet tall—or hearing community members describe the wonder they experienced as a child when they learned about salmon and habitat from NSEA over 20 years ago. Over our 30 years, we’ve completed over 450 restoration projects, educated more than 25,000 students about salmon and planted well over a hundred thousand trees in Whatcom County.”

NSEA is poised to continue this important work in the decades to come. In 2021 alone, NSEA will remove 13 fish passage barriers, improving access to over 20 miles of upstream habitat, as well as install 17 large woody debris structures and over 21,000 native plants along 7,900 feet of stream channel.

Learn more at www.n-sea.org!

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Darrell Gray, NSEA Project Manager, has been with NSEA for more than 25 years. He leads NSEA’s instream and restoration projects with designs, permits and implementations.

Amy Johnson is NSEA’s Advancement Manager in charge of communications and development, supporting education, restoration, and stewardship of Pacific salmon in Whatcom County.

Lorraine Wilde is Owner and Lead Strategist at Wilde World Communications. She has published more than 250 articles and blogs, helping small businesses and organizations spread positive messages, champion social justice and protect the environment.

Super Salmon Education Resources

Long Live the Kings is investing in the future of salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest.  In order for young people to champion this cause for decades to come, we need to give them the opportunity to learn about their own environments, feel connected, and be empowered to take action. Thanks to a grant from Boeing and support from partners like NOAA, we’ve been able to revamp our classroom materials to provide educators free resources for remote and in-person learning environments. Hear more about the material and other salmon education resources below. 

Survive the Sound in the Classroom 

Our educational program designed to accompany the Survive the Sound migration provides free resources for teachers to do with their classes either online or in the physical classroom. There are six activities mostly suited for 2nd-6th grade, but which can be adapted to any grade K-12. The activities discuss the salmon life cycle, watersheds, Steelhead anatomy, and more! These place-based lessons can be taught anytime, but are especially relevant during the weeks leading up to, during, and after the migration in early May. 

Survive the Sound in the Classroom lessons are connected to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and can be incorporated into Amplify units as well as Washington State’s Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum, Since Time Immemorial. This program is also researched based, using data from real juvenile steelhead on their way out to the Puget Sound. It is a great resource to include in your STEM or Social Studies units. From math activities to engineering design problems to discussing the human impact on the watershed, Survive the Sound in the Classroom is a great tool to connect abstract concepts to a tangible, meaningful subject- salmon and steelhead in Puget Sound.

Survive the Sound can be taught virtually or in person, with digital lessons suitable for google classrooms and Seesaw lessons as well as PDFs to print and distribute to students. The lessons can be flexible to your current scheduling whether you only have time for 5 minutes a day or 45. During the migration, students can also journal along and form hypotheses about what their fish might be experiencing.  

To learn more about Survive the Sound in the Classroom, please check out this educator training video:

Since Time Immemorial

Since Time Immemorial (STI) is Washington State’s tribal sovereignty curriculum for social studies. Salmon science and Survive the Sound’s activities can be easily woven into STI’s units, especially the Elementary pathways: “Honoring the Salmon” and “Salmon Homecoming” as well as the Middle School pathways: “River of Kings” and “Fish Wars”. As you think about what elements of salmon education you want to bring into your classroom or program, check out these videos from local PNW tribal members:   

  • Combining graphic art and storytelling, Roger Fernandez of the Clallum Tribe tells the traditional story of the Salmon Boy. Listen to a short story with a valuable lesson about our connection to the environment while also learning about Coast Salish art.  
  • I am salmon”, a video about the 5 pacific salmon narrated by a tribal member. This video discusses the life cycle, diet, and environmental needs of salmon from a native perspective. 
  • Billy Frank Jr. narrates “sčədadxʷ (salmon)”, a short video describing the importance of salmon to the Nisqually and other tribes. This beautifully animated video explores the past, present, and future of salmon heath. 

Salmon in Schools

Many Conservation Districts and local government organizations such as Seattle Public Utilities offer programs for teachers to raise salmon in their classrooms and release them in the Spring. This is a great way for students to see fish grow up from eggs to fry and get to know them close and personal. These are a few resources you can find your local Salmon in Schools program:

Visit your local hatchery

In-person or virtual field trips to a hatchery are a great way to incorporate experiential learning about salmon needs, life cycle, and anatomy. There are many hatcheries that provide educational opportunities including:

Please send us your experiences with Salmon Education in your classroom! sts@lltk.org