Once a robust stream of salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout, the current condition of Morse Creek prevents these fish from accessing important habitat for spawning.
Development, stream channelization, diking and armoring are all factors that contribute to the conditions of the creek, according to the recently released 2016 State of Our Watersheds Report, developed by the treaty tribes in western Washington.
Historically the creek was a meandering channel, allowing for slowly flowing water, proper spawning gravel and pools of water that salmon need for resting and feeding. Today, due to nearby development, the stream has been straightened, resulting in higher flows that scour the channel of the spawning gravel, plus fewer resting pools for salmon. The estuary at the mouth of the creek also has been largely eliminated.
Several restoration projects have taken place, including reconnecting a section of the creek to its historic channel and adding 1,300 feet of habitat, after which salmon were seen using the restored area. However, the area is still in danger of development and further damage.
From the report:
“The Morse Creek estuary, considered to have been an important contributor to the creek’s historic productivity, has been largely eliminated by development. The marine nearshore habitat at the mouth of Morse Creek also has been altered by historic railroad construction and armoring within the intertidal area, which as eliminated the shallow nearshore habitat to the west of Morse Creek.
Morse Creek is at risk from potential future development. Both the Mining Creek and Frog Creek sub-watersheds are platted for future urban development. Both sub-watersheds are located in the rain-on-snow zone in the Morse Creek watershed. Even if existing critical area ordinances are enforced, new development will likely result in additional significant stormwater impacts to Morse Creek.”