The greater Plateau will be receiving more than $1.2 million in grant funds to aid salmon recovery in two locations.
The money, provided by the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding board, will be going toward two projects: rerouting the Boise Creek where it flows through the Enumclaw Golf Course, and restoring the Green River as it meanders through Flaming Geyser State Park.
These projects may also receive additional funding through the board’s Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration program, if the money is approved by the state legislature in 2023.
And while the goal of these projects is to help salmon, they may also help people watch the fish — specifically Chinook/pink salmon, coho, and chum — swim upstream at Flaming Geyser during their respective spawning seasons; read on for tips on when and how to best watch the salmon runs.
BOISE CREEK REROUTE
A plan to reroute the Boise Creek through the Enumclaw Golf Course has been in the works since at least 2008, when the Puyallup Tribe began studying how to restore it to its historical path to aid salmon.
The Salmon Recovery Board announced it will be granting this project $1.15 million, and another $590,000 could head its way if approved by the state legislature next year.
Construction is expected to cost around $2.5 million.
The city of Enumclaw had hoped to begin construction this year, but setbacks have moved the anticipated start date to 2023 or even 2024; work is now dependent on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit, currently under review, said Eric Palmer, Enumclaw’s stormwater manager and contact for this project.
“Once started, it is expected that the project will take approximately 2-3 years to fully construct with the majority of work being performed in the first year,” he added.
Work includes moving the creek — it currently runs through the golf course (and more than occasionally floods it, rendering some holes unplayable) — so it flows along the forest line bordering the course. About 0.6 miles of the creek will be re-routed. Chappel Springs, a Boise Creek tributary that runs in a 900-foot culvert through part of the golf course, will also be rerouted.
This will provide many benefits to salmon (Chinook, sockeye, chum, pink, and coho) and trout (steelhead, bull, rainbow and sea run cutthroat) that use the creek, from vegetation providing shade (this is important, since warm water can be fatal to spawning fish) to decreasing disturbances caused by golfers (no one likes surprise golf balls raining down on them, spawning or no). Additional work on the creek will help diversify the habitat, providing areas for salmon to rest, hide, or eat.
Even though Boise Creek is deteriorated in many places, not least the golf course, “Boise Creek annually hosts the highest wild steelhead and Chinook spawning density found anywhere within the entire 1000 square-mile Puyallup River watershed which includes the White and Carbon Rivers,” said Russ Ladley, Director Puyallup Tribal Fisheries.
Spawning density is the number of fish per mile of stream or river, not the total number of fish.
“Its spring Chinook run is extremely rare for which preservation is deemed important to recovery of this ESA (Endangered Species Act) listed threatened species in the south Puget Sound,” Palmer said.
Construction will also include building two bridges, since the new Chappel Springs channel will cross in front of the No. 8 tee box and No. 1 fairway of the golf course; the bridge will allow golfers to cross the tributary.
Work restoring the Green River at the state park will be done by the King County Water and Land Resources Division.
There are two projects planned for Flaming Geyser.
The first involves tearing out invasive plants and replacing them with native ones, including planting tall trees that will provide shade for the river.
About $163,000 was granted to fund this project, which is expected to cost around $237,000.
“The effort to revegetate the Green River riparian zones within Flaming Geyser State Parks has been ongoing for several years and will likely continue for several more years,” said RCO project contact Josh Kahan. “We just started planting during last winter, but we had a lot of prep work to do. The funding… will allow us to continue our planting effort for another 1 – 2 years.
The second project is all about improving the river habitat. This includes placing logs in the river to create areas for fish to rest, find food, and hide from predators; the logs will also slow the river, reducing erosion and providing salmon more areas to spawn.
Additionally, more trees and bushes will be planted along the shore to shade the water and draws insects near, as well as further prevent erosion.
Planting began last year and is expected to take another five years, but wood is expected to be laid the summer of 2023.
At the moment, this project has been allocated nearly $69,500, but could receive an additional $300,000 if approved by the state legislature next year. The full project is expected to cost around $500,000.
No work in the state park is expected to impact visitors or tourism.
“The planting areas will be regularly monitored and maintained for several years after the planting, but that should not deter visitor uses,” Kahan said.
SALMON SEESON — WHERE TO SPOT
Flaming Geyser State Park is one of the best places to spot salmon on the Plateau, since you have to pay to get on the golf course and there currently isn’t a pedestrian bridge over the White River.
King County recommends trying to spot fish from the bridge leading into the park proper, “however there are lots of good paths through the park where people can walk along the river and find salmon,” said Chris Gregersen of the county’s Department of Natural Resources. (No matter where you choose to watch the fish, you’ll need a Discover Pass.)
Chinook and pink salmon use the river in September and October; Coho, in October and November; and Chum, November through December.
Last year, more than 3,000 Chinook salmon used the river to spawn (some were hatchery-hatched salmon). Nearly 1,700 coho were recorded, and just about 402 winter steelhead.
Chum and pink salmon are not measured, largely due to their overwhelming abundances, Gregersen said.
It’s recommended to come early in the day or late afternoon and to bring polarized glasses to avoid glare.