Public Works – Natural Resource staff provides technical assistance and scientific assistance to other county divisions and departments and collaborates with local, tribal, state, and federal agencies and citizen groups working to restore salmon in Whatcom County.
The WRIA 1 Salmonid Recovery Plan (2005), a chapter of the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Plan , guides restoration in the Nooksack River and adjacent watersheds. This plan was developed in partnership with Nooksack Tribe, Lummi Nation, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bellingham, and the small cities of Whatcom County. Chinook salmon populations (listed as threatened with extinction under the Federal Endangered Species Act) are prioritized, yet the plan also provides the template for recovery of threatened steelhead and bull trout and the other salmon and trout populations native to Whatcom County.
The salmon plan was developed in parallel with the WRIA 1 Watershed Management Plan. Salmon habitat is intricately linked to watershed management; salmon recovery will be most successful when fish habitat objectives are carefully coordinated with watershed management objectives.
Plan implementation occurs under the guidance of the WRIA 1 Salmon Recovery Board composed of the County Executive, Bellingham Mayor, Mayors of the Small Cities of Whatcom County, the regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and policy representatives from Lummi Nation and Nooksack Indian Tribe.
In addition to collaboration with other restoration partners, Natural Resource staff work with other divisions of Public Works and private landowners to accomplish salmon recovery projects. Integrating salmon recovery with flood hazard management and restoring fish passage under County roads are two primary areas of focus.
The Acme Early Chinook Project installed log jams along the left bank of the South Fork Nooksack River. A key objective was to provide deep cool pools for adult South Fork spring Chinook to hide in prior to spawning. The jams also provide juvenile salmon refuge and places to feed during all seasons. Another objective was to stabilize an eroding bank; this will let riparian vegetation become re-established to naturally stabilize the bank in the future while protecting the land behind it from erosion.
The Valley View Culvert Replacement Project was identified in the WRIA 1 Fish Habitat Barrier Inventory completed for Public Works in 2006. Impassable culverts under Valley View Road and through a private dam blocked fish access to upstream spawning and rearing habitats in a Dakota Creek tributary. These blocking culvert were replaced by a much larger culvert with interior baffles that allow the pond upstream to be maintained for coho rearing, but which form steps that allow coho and other salmon to easily navigate the culvert to reach upstream habitats. The project was a joint effort with Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife which helped with materials and design and permitting respectively.
The WRIA 1 Salmon Recovery Board website is currently under construction and content is still being added. Keep checking back for new information! The old Whatcom Salmon website is no longer updated but still contains useful background information on salmon resources in Whatcom County. Information on projects, funding, and technical assessments can also be found at the Habitat Work Schedule website. Please contact John N. Thompson, ESA Coordinator, at email@example.com with questions about the program.