Over the last year, Long Live the Kings has been forging new partnerships and making new connections up and down the Lake Washington Ship Canal. We’re part of a loose coalition of diverse interests: commercial fishing companies, boat maintenance yards, the Port of Seattle, American Waterway Operators and the Lake Washington-Cedar-Sammamish Watershed Salmon Recovery Council, among others, working to ensure that the Ballard Locks get the attention and funding they deserve to remain open and facilitate safe fish migration.
What is the issue at the Locks?
For anadromous fish like salmon, the Ballard Locks represent the biggest barrier in the watershed. All salmon have to navigate the Locks to go to the ocean and return to spawn, running the gauntlet of 100-year-old machinery and a patchwork of workarounds. The fish ladder functions as it should for returning adults, but as they travel through the large and small Locks, they risk injury by getting pulled into saltwater drains. The small salmon smolts (outmigrating juveniles) face even more danger. They “go with the flow” and end up exiting the Locks one of two ways: the lucky smolts exit via slides or flumes installed by the Army Corps of Engineers for safer passage, while the unlucky ones get sucked into the filling tunnels and scraped along rough, barnacle-covered walls – more on that and photos below!
Managers have known about these issues since a plan to recover Chinook was written in 2005. The Army Corps of Engineers partnered with the Salmon Recovery Council to make temporary fixes and minor improvements, but funding for permanent fixes and improvements for passage was the primary barrier (no pun intended). The erroneous notion in Washington DC had been that the Ballard Locks were largely a recreational and tourist amenity, and so we were unable to access maintenance dollars when competing with the big, commerce-moving infrastructure of the Mississippi or even the Columbia River facilities. Thanks to our new Ship Canal partners, that notion was put to rest when they commissioned a study to demonstrate the huge value of the Locks, which provide a freshwater port on Puget Sound for the Alaskan Fishing fleet and an entire maritime industry. They estimated over $1.2 billion in annual economic losses to the maritime industry alone if the Locks were to fail. We credit this study as catalyzing our coalition of partners who welcomed the “salmon interests” into their fold and together we worked with the Washington congressional delegation and every level of US Army Corps of Engineers to make the problem and solution well understood.
What is the solution?
The solution is a suite of projects for the 101-year-old structure, making a series of necessary upgrades and replacements to ensure the continued operation of the Locks while also improving survival of juvenile and adult migrating salmon. This series of projects will take several years to complete and we will need to keep up the pressure to fund them and see it through. The project that benefits fish most happens to be the first project on the list, so it won’t be long before we see a benefit to sockeye, Chinook, and coho salmon. The project entails replacing the valves and machinery of the ‘filling culvert’ mentioned earlier: a huge tunnel that moves lake water into the large lock to fill it during a lockage (when a vessel is raised or lowered to the the appropriate water level). The upgrades allow the culvert gates to open and close at different speeds to slow the velocity of water entering the locks during the smolt outmigration. This improvement, along with the smolt slides and flumes that you see as you walk across the dam at the Locks, should markedly increase the number of smolts that experience safe passage from the Ship Canal to Puget Sound.
Very importantly, the overall safety and functionality of the Locks is being improved. Last year’s funding was approved to replace a crane for the emergency closure system. Now the large Lock filling mechanism marks the project with the highest price tag on the list. Future projects involve seismic retrofits and a new screen on the saltwater drain so fish don’t get entrained (stuck) there.
There is more to do but let’s take a minute to celebrate this victory for fish and infrastructure in Puget Sound!
What can you do?
- Help us thank our Congressional leaders, especially Senator Patty Murray and Rep. Pramila Jayapal.
- Want to tour the large Locks and filling tunnel? Every year the Army Corps of Engineers empties each Lock at different times and conducts a series of safety checks and tests. They also scrape barnacles from inside the filling tunnel. The public can sign up to join a tour. Sign up here.
- Support LLTK to help advocate for salmon and steelhead in Olympia and Washington DC. Most of our grant funds can’t be used for this sort of effort, so we rely on individual donors to be able to leverage partnerships, meet with elected officials, and be a voice for salmon.
Cover image courtesy of: By Unknown Photographer / US Army Corps of Engineers – , Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=480030
All other images courtesy of Eric Hall, ehall Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ehall/
To raise awareness about high mortality rates for steelhead and salmon in Puget Sound waters, “Survive the Sound” invites students to track juvenile steelhead as they travel to the ocean from their freshwater homes.
Just a few paces from the front entrance to Cascadia Elementary School, dozens of baby salmon dart around in a large, bubbling tank. But for a class of 28 second-graders down the hall, a cartoon juvenile steelhead named “Fishy McFishface” is stealing the show.
For the past week, teacher Gary Bass Jr. has used Fishy — an alias for a real fish that’s been fitted with a surgically implanted tracking device — to teach his students about the obstacle-ridden journey from the river to the ocean that most Puget Sound steelhead die trying to complete.
“Should we check in on our fish?” Bass asked just after the morning bell on a recent school day. The students gave a cheer and scurried to the front of the classroom as Bass pulled up a website on a projection screen.
To the left of a map of Puget Sounds waters, a panel showed a leaderboard with 47 other fish, the migration mascots for the nearly 2,000 classrooms, most of them in Washington, that are participating in “Survive the Sound” this year.
Created by salmon-conservation nonprofit Long Live the Kings, Survive the Sound became a supplement to salmon and steelhead curricula somewhat accidentally. Described as a sort of fantasy football for fish, the initiative started during last year’s steelhead migration.
Image caption: Cascadia Elementary School teacher Gary Bass Jr. answers questions at the end of a lesson about salmon and steelhead migration to the Puget Sound. Bass also works writing and math into his “Survive the Sound” lesson plan.
Predators, disease, pollution, oh my! It’s tough in Puget Sound for steelhead. Fortunately, you can help and have some fun in the process by joining Survive the Sound.
Survive the Sound is an opportunity for everyone to follow the perilous migration of 48 funny looking steelhead smolts. These fish will face all sorts of obstacles along the way, and few will survive. It’s up to you to pick the fish that will make it to the finish line alive. Sponsor more than one fish, invite friends, or build a big team to have a chance at winning the grand prizes!
Beginning May 7th, you will watch your fish in their 12-day migratory race to survive Puget Sound. Each day you’ll be updated on our fish’s progress and learn a little more about the science behind wild salmon and steelhead recovery.
Proceeds help Long Live the Kings restore wild salmon and steelhead, and support free classroom participation.
We need your help! Steelhead have been suffering huge losses on their trek through Puget Sound and are at risk of extinction.
Please call or email your state legislator by February 10, and ask them to support the ‘Recover Puget Sound Steelhead’ request in the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 2018 supplemental budget (request details attached). It’s that easy!
Who’s your state legislator? Find out here and make a call for fish!
The legislative session is short, so act by February 10 to make sure your voice is heard!
Not sure what to say? Use this language in your correspondence:
Please support the ‘Recover Puget Sound
Steelhead’ request for$793,000 in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 2018 supplemental budget. It is the last of the funding needed to address severe threats to steelhead in our Puget Sound marine environment Problems like contaminants, disease, and predation have already been identified, and researchers are close to providing solutions.
The request is part of the international, collaborative Salish Sea Marine Survival project to determine why young Chinook, coho and steelhead are dying in Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia. Previous appropriations by Washington State totaling $1.6 million have been leveraged by $17 million raised, and equal in-kind support, from the 60 public, private and nonprofit groups affiliated with the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project.
Survive the Sound Returns Spring 2018.
With over 1,100 steelhead sponsorships from friends, family, and coworkers, Survive the Sound made a big splash in its 2017 pilot year. Only 6 of the original 48 steelhead survived, but participants walked away with two clear messages: Puget Sound steelhead are struggling to survive, and it’s up to us to save them. Thank you to all who participated and made this innovative, new campaign a reality!
In case you missed the excitement last spring and are still puzzled by conversations comparing the prospects of Fishy McFishface and Lulu, Survive the Sound is an interactive game that uses real data from migrating wild steelhead to create competition between friends, family and colleagues. Something along the lines of fantasy football for fish. Basically, tracking data from wild steelhead is collected and shared with players through the Survive the Sound website. Players sponsored a fish and followed the perilous journey to the ocean.
Before the migration began in early May, participants connected with each other on the app, gifted fish to thankful friends, and sponsored multiple fish to increase their odds of survival. During the two-week migration, everyone was gripped to their smartphones, eagerly waiting for the latest updates on their fish’s miraculous progress or unfortunate demise. Consequently, non-participants were subjected to a boatload of fishy puns during the migration – our fincerest apologies.
This spring, everyone gets another opportunity to follow these funny-looking fish. Fish selection will open in early March 2018 at SurvivetheSound.org. Still not sure if you’re in? Here are a few new reasons to participate in Survive the Sound this year:
- Support FREE access to Survive the Sound for teachers – Beginning in March, educators will be able to join Survive the Sound using a free gift card. (enroll for the gift card now using this form). LLTK is also partnering with NOAA to create a salmon and steelhead educational toolkit with STEM learning opportunities which complements the Survive the Sound experience.
- Form a CUSTOM team – Salmon and steelhead supporters will be able to create and name a team in order to gather support for recovery efforts. To join a team, users can contribute as little as $5, but for every $25 a team raises, they’ll be able to pick a new fish, increasing the team’s chance of an overall win.
- Play this FUN game with your coworkers – LLTK will help get you and your coworkers involved with salmon and steelhead recovery with an employee engagement toolkit and bulk fish sponsorship packages. Build camaraderie with friendly competition and a healthy dose of science, all for a good cause. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Supporting threatened steelhead populations is no game – except when it is. Help us grow Survive the Sound by spreading the word.
- Ask your employer to become a corporate campaign sponsor – Survive the Sound now has corporate sponsorship opportunities that will recognize your company’s valuable contribution to an effort that will reach thousands of people. Contact email@example.com for more information.Survive the Sound participates struggling to decide which fish to pick.
- Connect with local educators – Don’t let classrooms miss out on an opportunity to participate in Survive the Sound for free! Tell them to enroll here, or share an informational sheet that you’ll find here.
By Glenn Lamb Special to The Daily Astorian
Published on June 8, 2017 12:01AM
“The Pacific Northwest is salmon country.
On the Lower Columbia River and Pacific Coast, salmon and steelhead are key to our way of life, anchoring coastal economies, ecosystems and culture. Today, as for generations, commercial and sport fishermen feed their families and support communities through salmon harvest.
Salmon restoration efforts support the fishing industry, but also benefit other species, make our water cleaner and reduce the risk of costly floods. In short, when we protect salmon, we bolster our communities and our environment.
The Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund is managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency works with states and tribes to invest in salmon and steelhead recovery work in Alaska, Washington state, Oregon, California and Idaho, contributing $1.2 billion since 2000 and leveraging $1.4 billion in matching funds. The $215 million invested in Oregon alone leverages $330 million of state Lottery funds, bringing the total to protect and enhance salmon to $545 million.
This is truly an investment, and one that provides returns.
Recreational fishing alone generates about $500 million annually in Oregon, creating 16,500 jobs, and commercial salmon fishing creates over $16 million annually and more than 900 jobs.
In addition to fishing, investing in the “restoration economy” also makes good business sense. According to the University of Oregon, every $1 million spent on habitat restoration creates 15 to 24 local jobs, and more than 90 cents of every dollar stays in Oregon communities.
The salmon recovery grant program supports locally driven actions, not regulatory directives. With the help of watershed councils, soil and water conservation districts and land trusts, landowners and local communities plant trees, replace impassable culverts and restore streambanks. Cuts to this program would be a devastating setback for a citizen-led effort to restore healthy salmon runs in Oregon.
Without continued investment like the recovery fund, salmon recovery in the Northwest will stall, hurting the economies and communities supported by salmon fishing in the long term. We hope you’ll join us in asking Congress to continue to support the recovery of our salmon.
Glenn Lamb is the executive director of Columbia Land Trust based in Vancouver, Washington, with offices in Hood River and Astoria. A nonprofit organization, Columbia Land Trust conserves and cares for the vital lands, waters and wildlife of the Columbia River region through sound science and strong relationships.”
Read the full article here.