ARLINGTON (June 10, 2004) — Parts of the Stillaguamish River system are too warm for salmon, a new study by the Washington Department of Ecology shows – but the Stillaguamish Tribe is working hard to combat this threat to fish runs.
“We’ve known for a long time that loss of trees and plants along the river could be causing temperatures to rise,” said Shawn Yanity, fisheries director for the Stillaguamish Tribe. “This research shows that our work replanting native vegetation is even more important than we initially thought.”
The tribe, through its BankSavers nursery program, supplies native plants for a variety of restoration initiatives throughout the region. The program supports efforts to restore those areas next to rivers and streams – also called “riparian habitat” – that scientists say are critical to salmon restoration.
Indeed, temperature trouble afflicts many sites throughout the Stillaguamish basin. Temperatures reached dangerously high levels in the Stillaguamish River’s main stem, both the north and south forks of the river, and several tributaries, including Deer Creek, Higgins Creek, Little Deer Creek and Pilchuck Creek. State standards say that when the mercury rises above 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit, it creates danger for fish; 73.4 degrees is considered the “lethal level” for salmon.
“When temperatures get too high, it increases stress on the fish, and diminishes the oxygen content in the water,” said Yanity. “Salmon need that oxygen to survive, and every bit of stress we can decrease will help them thrive and reproduce.”
In 2001, Ecology’s research shows, temperatures were too high at 43 sites in the Stillaguamish watershed. At seven of those spots, temperatures eclipsed the “lethal” mark.
To address this problem, the tribe has planted native trees along five area creeks, sites along both the lower Stillaguamish Channel and the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River. The tribe’s natural resources department has planned more plantings for the North Fork and its tributaries later this year.
“Shade is essential for good stream habitat,” said Yanity. “Tree cover keeps the water cool and native plants prevent soil erosion, both of which support healthy fish populations.”
The tribe, along with Snohomish County, also joined Ecology’s temperature monitoring efforts, keeping track of water warmth at 19 sites in the Stillaguamish basin.
“We’ll do all we can to help salmon, but no one entity can do it alone,” said Yanity. “The tribal and state co-managers have to work together with local communities. That’s always been our goal: cooperation is the best way to save our wild salmon.”
For more information contact: Jeff Shaw, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, 360.424.8226, or 360.920.5094 cellular; Shawn Yanity, Stillaguamish Tribe, 360.652.7362, x282.