Report: Puget Sound salmon struggling

Half of Washington State’s 15 endangered salmon populations, including Puget Sound chinook and steelhead, are still declining even as shoreline armoring removal projects increase, according to a report released by the governor’s office.

The biennial State of Salmon in Watersheds report released earlier this month divides the 15 salmon populations into four categories: getting worse, not making progress, showing signs of progress and near goal. Hood Canal chum and Snake River fall Chinook are the only two listed as near goal, while six others are said to be showing signs of progress. However, Chinook and steelhead in Puget Sound are given the worst prognosis and are placed in the “getting worse” category. According to the report, the continually declining numbers can be attributed to the fact that Puget Sound is losing habitat faster than it can be restored.

“This region has the largest and most rapid population growth in Washington, and is predicted to increase in population faster than before,” the report indicates.

The report also outlines the recipients of funding related to salmon preservation. From 1997 to 2015, the Puget Sound region received $516.55 million in salmon-related funding, including funds that have gone toward removing bulkheads on Vashon.

At King County, Jim Chan, assistant director of permitting, said that for Vashon, from 2013 to 2016, there were two permits to remove a bulkhead and two to remove beach debris such as an old concrete dock. There have been only two new bulkheads in that time, including one that was built this year.

With the report’s bleak prognosis for Puget Sound Chinook, shoreline armoring removal work is ongoing. King County’s Greg Rabourn held a seminar last Wednesday to explain and answer questions about four bulkhead removal projects that will get underway in the fall on county-owned properties around the Maury Island Aquatic Preserve. Bulkheads will be removed from Piner Point and Northilla on southern Maury Island and from Lost Lake and Forest Glen on the southeastern portion of Vashon.

“As part of our Chinook salmon recovery program, we’ve been acquiring and restoring habitat,” Rabourn said. “We have a conveyor belt of new projects we do as we get funding.”

He explained that the forage fish salmon feed on spawn on the beaches.

“Armoring prevents that,” he said, explaining that bulkheads also interfere with the natural erosion that keeps sand fine for spawning.

Reached after last Wednesday’s meeting, he also said that a major concern of islanders is whether removing bulkheads from these natural areas will affect adjacent properties and make them susceptible to landslides.

“No,” he said. “We won’t do a project if the risk (of landslide) is going to increase. We’re very cautious.”

Comments on the bulkhead removal projects are being accepted through Jan. 25. For more information and to submit a comment, see kingcounty.gov/restorationprojects.

— Anneli Fogt


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