Repatriating Salmon to Point Elliott: Fish and Wildlife in bǝka’ltiu (Mukilteo), 2012-2018
56 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2020
Date Written: January 15, 2019
In an 1855 treaty at Point Elliott (bǝka’ltiu or Mukilteo, WA) the United States promised Coast Salish nations that they could continue to hunt and fish in their usual and accustomed places in perpetuity; yet logging, stream realignments, military installations, pollution, and transportation infrastructure over the following century disrupted and impeded salmon access to local streams. A railroad spur built in the late 1960s to connect the waterfront railway to a Boeing plant above Japanese Gulch introduced additional barriers and by this time, if not sooner, humans had entirely blocked salmon access to the stream in the very shadows of the historic treaty. Students from Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, WA. joined a collaborative effort in 2012 led by the City of Mukilteo and Snohomish County Airport, in consultation with Tulalip Tribes and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, to remove four major barriers to salmon migration in Japanese Gulch. As its name suggests, this stream is not only important to the First Peoples of this land but also to descendants of immigrants from Japan who lived in lumber company housing in the gulch during the early twentieth century. Urban streams and their associated riparian zones in western Washington contain important fish and wildlife habitat in the midst of extensive human activities. This report summarizes the results of in-stream salmon spawning, wildlife, and water quality surveys in two streams in the heart and edges of Mukilteo conducted between 2012 and 2018. The surveys demonstrate that small numbers of adult coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch) have consistently come to Japanese Gulch to spawn for seven consecutive years. Chum returned to Japanese Gulch for just one out of seven years of observation. Coho returned to Big Gulch for four out of six years of monitoring in this watershed. Chum (O. keta) have returned for five out of six years of monitoring but the numbers have been quite variable and were dramatically lower this year than the previous year. The variability of salmon runs in Big Gulch coincides with a similar volatility in water quality samples, suggesting that water quality remains the primary threat to the viability of salmon in this stream. For four out of five years, service-learners have documented pre-spawn mortality in Mukilteo streams. In fact, three out of the four years that coho returned to Big Gulch, necropsies revealed 100% pre-spawn mortality resulting in a cumulative rate of 87.5% over five years of monitoring. Surveyors at Japanese Gulch found pre-spawn mortality rates average just 40% in the recently restored stream over the same five years. These local rates of pre-spawn mortality range from substantially to moderately higher than predicted by new prognostic models developed by scientists at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for forecasting premature deaths. Teams of students, staff, and faculty have confirmed 13 mammals and 22 birds previously reported and added three each of additional mammals and birds as well as one amphibian to the list. At Big Gulch they have also added 11 species of mammals, 17 species of bird, and one each of amphibians and reptiles. Overall, 805 students, staff, and community members have contributed to this community-based service-learning partnership over the past seven years. This project serves as an example of the value of community-based citizen science in filling the monitoring and assessment gap in current salmon restoration projects throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Keywords: repatriation, salmon, Coast Salish, tribes, cities, counties, community college, students, service-learning, community-based, fish, wildlife, water quality, pre-spawn mortality
JEL Classification: R42, R58, Q53, I23, Z18, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation