Repatriating Salmon to Point Elliott: Fish and Wildlife in bǝka’ltiu (Mukilteo)
47 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2018
Date Written: January 15, 2018
In an 1855 treaty at Point Elliot (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 railroad and road infrastructure over the following century disrupted and impeded salmon access to local streams. A railroad spur built in the 1960s to connect 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, Washington, 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 intense human activities. Community college students are enhancing their own learning while assisting cities, counties, and tribes with monitoring of plants and animals in these urban ecosystems.
This report summarizes the results of an in-stream salmon spawning survey in two streams in the heart and edges of Mukilteo conducted from October 23, 2017 through December 20, 2017. It also reports on wildlife surveys using tracking and camera traps and on monthly water quality sampling from January to December 2017. Additionally, this report draws comparisons and contrasts with previous wildlife surveys that began as early as January 2012 and expanded in scope later in that year to include salmon and in more recent years in water quality. Students, faculty, and staff from Edmonds CC, along with community volunteers, have conducted these surveys in Japanese and Big Gulches in response to requests from the City of Mukilteo and Snohomish County Airport. The data collected help these municipalities preserve and sustain places and species of significant cultural importance to local Coast Salish tribes, Japanese-American communities, and the larger mainstream culture.
The surveys demonstrate that small numbers of adult coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch) continue to return to Japanese Gulch for the sixth year in a row. For the first time in six years of monitoring, college students have also observed adult chum (Oncorhynchus keta) spawning in Japanese Gulch. Chum have made their first documented appearance since the removal of barriers that had excluded salmon from the stream for approximately fifty years. The viability of coho and chum runs in Japanese Gulch, though, is under threat from an invasive species, bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamera), that has overrun prime spawning habitat in restored sections of the stream. For the third out of five years, coho have returned again to Big Gulch, a neighboring stream that like Japanese Gulch, begins at what is now Paine Field Airport. For the fourth out of five years of monitoring in this second stream, chum have again returned to Big Gulch, this year in the highest numbers yet recorded.
Keywords: salmon, wildlife, water quality, green infrastructure, Japanese Gulch, Big Gulch, Mukilteo, pre-spawn mortality, camera traps
JEL Classification: Q01, Q25, Q22, Q57, Z13, Z18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation