Can we stop the demise of Edmonds' salmon streams? | Guest View


Last updated 8/31/2023 at 9:29am

First it was Perrinville Creek. Now it is Shell Creek that is losing its natural functions and salmon habitat -– this time because of neglect and inaction by City administration in Yost Park.

In the case of Perrinville Creek, the loss of salmon is due to both inaction to implement a watershed restoration plan (as promised by Mayor Nelson in a press release over two years ago), and an apparent illegal action the City took in January 2021 to totally block salmon access to Perrinville Creek.

Shell Creek, which starts in Yost Park and flows to Caspers Street and then out to Puget Sound on Cary Road, has a struggling natural population of both coho and chum salmon that spawn in the creek each year.

Their survival in this creek, like many other urban streams, is dependent on municipal actions to properly manage excess stormwater flows and take necessary action when excess flows cause damage to stream habitat.

And now the mayor is repeating the Perrinville Creek salmon disaster in Shell Creek by allowing his staff to continue to delay action (requested well over a year ago) on a potential hillside collapse and serious erosion problem at an old weir at the west end of Yost Park.

Whales in the Wild

Prior to a heavy rainstorm in December 2020 that sent a torrent of stormwater into Yost Park, Shell Creek flowed over the top of an old Yost Water Company weir at the west end of Yost Park creating a picturesque waterfall.

The December 2020 rainstorm flow not only cracked a section of the concrete weir downward, but it changed the creek channel to flow around one side of the weir with the eroding force of the water against a hillside.

Now, 2½ years later, the creek has eroded the hillside to the point where the underside of the roots of large trees are exposed, threatening tree falls and hillside collapse.

And, with respect to salmon survival, this eroded sediment has been depositing downstream covering the gravel where salmon spawn.

Salmon require cool, oxygenated water and clean gravel to lay their eggs. The lower reaches of Shell Creek used to have all three of these required conditions.

Recent salmon surveys conducted annually by the Edmonds Stream Team since 2016 indicate much of the lower reach spawning gravel in Shell Creek is being covered by sediment with few or no salmon present in areas where they spawned in past.

In spite of the fact that the Edmonds City Council amended the 2023 budget to provide funding specifically for addressing the erosion issue at this weir in Yost Park, City administration has done nothing but put up bureaucratic obstacles and refused to implement the 2023 budget as directed by the City Council.

And now, City administration’s excuse for inaction (and killing salmon eggs) will likely be the “window” for working instream closes Sept. 15.

I’ve made the impacts on salmon in Shell Creek known to both the Parks and Development Services directors by telling them that “those salmon eggs that die this coming winter due to sediment will be on your shoulders.”

The mayor, as usual, has not responded to public concerns, but he did ban City staff from attending any further meetings on resolving the Yost Park problem.

I can only hope the current mayor wakes up to the fact that his lack of leadership and lack of supervision of his department directors is killing our salmon.


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