The Green and Duwamish Rivers are home to spawning and migrating salmon that return yearly from the ocean to resume the river part of their life cycle. It’s a real treat to see them, sometimes a lot of them, when I swim down the river.
Yesterday I was privileged to join the watershed restoration group WRIA 9 on a tour of restoration sites and celebrate progress. I was the one in the wetsuit coming out of the Duwamish River at Duwamish Waterway Park to offer my testimonial on the great restoration work that’s been done, after seeing some of it from a fish’s-eye view.
But we’re not finished yet. Both the winter steelhead and chinook salmon of the Green and Duwamish Rivers are considered (at a federal level) to be a threatened species. The high levels of toxic runoff that enter tributary streams, and rivers themselves, are threatening the Salmon species of the Green/Duwamish Watershed. Industrialization, habitat loss and impairment, and damage done to their ecosystems contribute to the major threats facing Green/Duwamish salmon.
Is anything being done about this situation? Yes, the people of the watershed, tribes, and government agencies have joined together to tackle the problems and help restore salmon populations. More work is ahead of us, but one important lesson from swimming the rivers is that we should be hopeful. Despite everything that’s been done to the Duwamish and Green Rivers, they’re still alive.
Who’s doing the work? Washington state has 62 Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA). WRIA 9 is the Water Resource Inventory area of the Green/Duwamish watershed and the critical habitat for the Green/Duwamish Salmon population. WRIA 9 has made it a goal to protect and repair the ecosystem needed for Salmon to thrive, by “making our watershed fit for a King”. Since the WRIA 9 recovery plan was adopted 9 years ago, they have accumulated $137 million in funding for restoration efforts. Through the implementation of the WRIA 9 program, they have reconnected floodplains, restored marine shorelines, removed or set back levees, and planted riparian areas. In addition to all of that, the program has acquired land for protection. By doing so, WRIA 9 is working “…improve the ecological health of the watershed, contribute to the recovery of Puget Sound as a whole,” and recover the salmon and steelhead.
The WRIA 9 recovery plan has already completed 23 salmon habitat projects, and has 18 currently underway. In addition to this important and impressive progress, organizations such as Green Seattle Partnership, Earthcorps, Whale Scout, the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps, and more are working with local volunteers to restore and protect our local Salmon habitat, and give them a fighting chance. Please support them and consider joining their volunteer efforts.
Discussing the ongoing restoration efforts along the Duwamish River with the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps and WRIA 9 tour members.