Salmon 101: How to keep a fish happy
June 10, 2008 · Updated 5:51 PM
"POULSBO - What does an endangered fish want? Well, other than being taken off the endangered list, one might say space, clean water and beneficial surroundings. In fact, that's pretty much what local engineer and salmon expert Chris May had to say about the needs of Hood Canal Chum and Puget Sound Chinook during an educational session Tuesday night in Poulsbo. It all basically boils down to the habitat these fish are offered by our ever-growing communities. Despite having the overtones of a basic salmon talk, the meeting brought members of the Poulsbo City Council, the city engineer, city planner, city planning commission, Kitsap County Planning Department, county planning commission and a number of concerned citizens. Salmon are just indicators. So, why should we care? May asked, before pointing out that the hearty fish were considered a keystone species of the entire Northwest ecosystem. They tell us where we're at. He also stressed how resilient salmon have proven to be over the years. They were here before the glaciers, May said, detailing their long history. For mankind to bring such a stout species to the brink of extinction, he added, should make everyone think. While fishing has certainly taken its toll on salmon, urban development and bad planning are also major factors which are leading to the decline of local stocks. By modifying the natural landscape, cities have in turn decreased the chances of salmon survival. Replacing trees and natural forest settings with roads, parking lots houses and businesses has a real impact on waterborne life forms as runoff increases dramatically. May pointed out that runoff in a forest is lessened to about 1 percent by the time rainwater reaches a stream or other body of water. In urban environments this amount is hiked to about 30 percent, bringing oil and other man-made pollutants directly to areas that these fish need to survive. Despite this, May pointed out, Flow happens. But while urban settings will have increased runoff no matter what, the primary thought planners should keep in mind is how and where development should take place, he advised. We're always going to be a disturbance, May said, explaining that cities and counties could determine just how much of disturbance they were to the struggling species. With the Endangered Species Act now protecting the two salmon types, the boom is just waiting to fall on proposed development that has potential to hinder the progress and prosperity of the fish. While this is a good step in the right direction, May pointed out that in most cases the damage has already been done. Whether it is irreversible has yet to be determined. Success stories are very few, but that isn't stopping Poulsbo and the Washington State Department of Transportation from improving salmon access along Dogfish Creek during a widening project on Highway 305 next year. As construction gets underway, crews will be installing fish friendly culverts along the roadway. The 305 project is the perfect time to do something for the creek, said May, explaining that possible impacts on wildlife were given little or no thought when the highway was built. It was popped in the best possible location for the road guys and the worst possible location for the stream. On the other side of the city, plans are in the works to remove a small fish-blocking culvert under Lindvig Way. That proposal includes building a $1.6 million bridge across Dogfish Creek at the northern edge of Liberty Bay. Although the city is taking measures to increase the chances of survival among Puget Sound Chinook - May joked that Hood Canal Chum don't come into Liberty Bay unless they're lost - the best way to sustain the species is to give them an adequate protective buffer zone around their habitat. The idea here is to protect their areas and then leave them alone, he suggested. "