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Meet the Salmon

 
WRIA 10 supports two independent populations of threatened White River spring and summer/fall Chinook and Puyallup River fall Chinook. The rivers are also home to threatened bull trout, as well as Coho, chum and pink salmon, steelhead, and sea-run cutthroat trout. Sockeye, occasionally observed during South Prairie Creek spawning surveys, are considered indigenous to the Puyallup River Basin

 
Chinook
 
Bull Trout
 
Coho
 
Chum Salmon
 
Pink Salmon
 
Steelhead
 
Cutthroat
 
Sockeye
 
Salmon images courtesy of King County. Steelhead image courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce.

 

Watershed
Salmon and the Puyallup/White and Chambers/Clover Creek Watersheds

 

 

For more information about salmon recovery planning in this watershed, click here.

Click here to read this watershed's feedback summary.

 

Key Facts
 

Land use in the rural upper and mid-Puyallup is primarily forestry and agriculture, while urban and industrial development characterizes the lower Puyallup and much of the Chambers/Clover Creek watershed.

Pierce’s major cities include Tacoma, Sumner, Lakewood, University Place, Fife and Puyallup.

Projected population growth for Pierce County is 27% between 2000 and 2020.

Watershed planning under HB2514 is underway for the Chambers-Clover Creek watershed.

The planning areas under the state Watershed Management Act are Watershed Resource Inventory Area (WRIA)’s 10 and 12.

   

The White and Carbon Rivers are glacially-born on the flanks of Mount Rainer, the largest and best-known of 13 major volcanoes that span the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and Washington. Each is a tributary that flows into Pierce County’s largest river, the Puyallup, also glacially-born. The Puyallup River empties into Commencement Bay at the Port of Tacoma, the third largest port in the western U.S. The Puyallup/White River basin is geologically the youngest watershed in Puget Sound having been shaped by a series of mudflows running down Mount Rainier’s flanks starting about 5,600 years ago.

There are two hydroelectric dams (Electron Dam on the Puyallup, and the Lake Tapps Hydroelectric Project) and Mud Mountain Dam, a flood control dam on the White River. Mud Mountain Dam regulates flooding by holding back water from heavy rains and snow melt in the reservoir, then releasing it slowly back into the river. Returning adult salmon are trapped at the Lake Tapps diversion dam; they are trucked upstream of the Mud Mountain Dam where they are released back into the White River. Fry pass through the dam’s tunnels as they head for Puget Sound.

The historic Commencement Bay estuary was characterized by extensive tidal flood plains of a meandering Puyallup River along extensive off-channel sloughs, marshes and wetlands, as well as a delta with numerous braided distributary channels and broad, expansive mudflat habitat. Today, less than 5% of the original estuarine habitat remains, and that has been severely impacted by both urban and industrial pollution. Citizens for a Healthy Bay believes that the value of tidal wetlands to fish and wildlife is so great that the addition of even small amounts of wetland habitat provides substantial benefit to the local ecosystem.

Pierce County also includes the Chambers/Clover Creek watershed (WRIA 12). Groundwater fed Clover Creek begins six miles east of Spanaway and is culverted through McCord Air Force Base before draining into Steilacoom Lake. Chambers Creek originates in Steilacoom Lake and empties into Chambers Bay.

Major Policy or Actions Needed to Recover Salmon

Improving Access to High-Quality Habitat
Access to the best remaining habitat, in the upper reaches of the Puyallup-White system, is hampered by levees, culverts and other barriers. For example, of the 357 known culverts in the Puyallup, approximately 70% are partial or complete barriers to salmon. A comprehensive survey of passage barriers and a habitat assessment have been completed and are used to guide selection of strategic protection and restoration projects. Improving access to high-quality up river habitat remains a major focus and opportunity for progress. In addition, the fish screen at the Electron Dam diversion accounts for as much as 40% of the mortality of downstream migrating smolts. Improvements in the fish screen efficiency are a high priority for salmon recovery.

Protection, Restoration of Floodplain Habitat
Salmon recovery efforts have taken aim at the loss of floodplain habitat. Dikes and levees have been used extensively to contain the White, Puyallup and Carbon Rivers, rivers naturally inclined to meander. Major recovery projects completed and slated for action include levee setbacks and oxbow restoration while simultaneously continuing to provide for flood control. The restoration of flood plain and estuary connectivity is one of the most important types of habitat actions needed for improving salmon population performance.

Nearshore Habitat
A habitat assessment of the nearshore along WRIA 12 from Point Defiance to the Nisqually Delta is important priority for regional salmon habitat planning. The WRIA 12 shoreline is the last substantial stretch of shoreline in South Puget Sound that has not yet been comprehensively assessed, and has been identified as a significant data gap. In addition, numerous restoration projects in the Puyallup estuary and Commencement Bay are ongoing or planned through the NRDA process.

 

We’re Making Progress—Some Accomplishments

Habitat Restoration
A major levee setback effort in 1998 removed over a mile of levees and restored 127 acres of stream side and floodplain habitat to natural river processes. In a separate effort, more than 85 acres of floodplain were acquired as part of a flood control/levee setback project. A current project involves replacing an undersized culvert and re-connecting an oxbow at the 96th Street wetland on the Puyallup River.

Restoring Access
The Coal Mine Creek Fish Passage project replaces a 700-foot widely-altered portion of South Prairie Creek, one of the most productive streams in the Puyallup basin, opening up prime spawning and rearing habitat.

Scientific Modeling Helps Prioritize Potential Salmon Habitat Projects
Pierce County established a committee consisting of representatives from agencies such as the Puyallup Tribe, the Port of Tacoma, the City of Tacoma, Federal Way, Pierce Conservation District, the U.S. Forest Service and local non-profits, and biologists from the County, the State Department of Fish and Wildlife and NOAA Fisheries. This committee conducted a scientific analysis to analyze the strategic importance of different areas for salmon and to identify targeted restoration and protection efforts.

Low-Impact Development
Limiting the impact of new development is critical in any highly-urbanized watershed. Pierce County recently worked with a developer and engineering firm to introduce low impact development technologies in the Fife Heights (Meadow on the Hylebos) area. The 8.9 acre site, at the center of an urban growth area, involves construction of 35 residential units and is expected to serve as a model for incorporating low impact development techniques.

Organizations Involved

  • Pierce County
  • Puyallup Tribe
  • Port of Tacoma
  • City of Tacoma
  • City of Federal Way
  • Pierce Conservation District
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • WA Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • NOAA Fisheries
  • Citizens for a Healthy Bay
  • Friends of the Hylebos
  • WA Department of Natural Resources
  • WA Department of Ecology

 

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