Salmon and the Puyallup/White and Chambers/Clover Creek Watersheds
more information about salmon recovery planning in this
watershed, click here.
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this watershed's feedback summary.
Land use in the rural upper
and mid-Puyallup is primarily forestry and agriculture,
while urban and industrial development characterizes
the lower Puyallup and much of the Chambers/Clover Creek
Pierce’s major cities include
Tacoma, Sumner, Lakewood, University Place, Fife and
Projected population growth for Pierce County
is 27% between 2000 and 2020.
Watershed planning under
HB2514 is underway for the Chambers-Clover Creek watershed.
planning areas under the state Watershed Management
Act are Watershed Resource Inventory Area (WRIA)’s
10 and 12.
The White and Carbon Rivers are glacially-born on the flanks of
Mount Rainer, the largest and best-known of 13 major volcanoes
that span the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and Washington. Each is
a tributary that flows into Pierce County’s largest river, the Puyallup,
also glacially-born. The Puyallup River empties into Commencement
Bay at the Port of Tacoma, the third largest port in the western
U.S. The Puyallup/White River basin is geologically the youngest
watershed in Puget Sound having been shaped by a series of mudflows
running down Mount Rainier’s flanks starting about 5,600
There are two hydroelectric dams (Electron Dam on the Puyallup,
and the Lake Tapps Hydroelectric Project) and Mud Mountain Dam, a
flood control dam on the White River. Mud Mountain Dam regulates
flooding by holding back water from heavy rains and snow melt in
the reservoir, then releasing it slowly back into the river. Returning
adult salmon are trapped at the Lake Tapps diversion dam; they are
trucked upstream of the Mud Mountain Dam where they are released
back into the White River. Fry pass through the dam’s tunnels
as they head for Puget Sound.
The historic Commencement Bay estuary was characterized by extensive
tidal flood plains of a meandering Puyallup River along extensive
off-channel sloughs, marshes and wetlands, as well as a delta with
numerous braided distributary channels and broad, expansive mudflat
habitat. Today, less than 5% of the original estuarine habitat remains,
and that has been severely impacted by both urban and industrial
pollution. Citizens for a Healthy Bay believes that the
value of tidal wetlands to fish and wildlife is so great that the
addition of even small amounts of wetland habitat provides substantial
benefit to the local ecosystem.
Pierce County also includes the Chambers/Clover Creek watershed
(WRIA 12). Groundwater fed Clover Creek begins six miles east of
Spanaway and is culverted through McCord Air Force Base before draining
into Steilacoom Lake. Chambers Creek originates in Steilacoom Lake
and empties into Chambers Bay.
Major Policy or
Actions Needed to Recover Salmon
Access to the best remaining habitat, in the upper reaches of the
Puyallup-White system, is hampered by levees, culverts and other
barriers. For example, of the 357 known culverts in the Puyallup,
approximately 70% are partial or complete barriers to salmon. A
comprehensive survey of passage barriers and a habitat assessment
have been completed and are used to guide selection of strategic
protection and restoration projects. Improving access to high-quality
up river habitat remains a major focus and opportunity for progress.
In addition, the fish screen at the Electron Dam diversion accounts
for as much as 40% of the mortality of downstream migrating smolts.
Improvements in the fish screen efficiency are a high priority
for salmon recovery.
Salmon recovery efforts have taken aim at the loss of floodplain
habitat. Dikes and levees have been used extensively to contain
the White, Puyallup and Carbon Rivers, rivers naturally inclined
to meander. Major recovery projects completed and slated for action
include levee setbacks and oxbow restoration while simultaneously
continuing to provide for flood control. The restoration of flood
plain and estuary connectivity is one of the most important types
of habitat actions needed for improving salmon population performance.
A habitat assessment of the nearshore along WRIA 12 from Point Defiance
to the Nisqually Delta is important priority for regional salmon
habitat planning. The WRIA 12 shoreline is the last substantial
stretch of shoreline in South Puget Sound that has not yet been
comprehensively assessed, and has been identified as a significant
data gap. In addition, numerous restoration projects in the Puyallup
estuary and Commencement Bay are ongoing or planned through the
Making Progress—Some Accomplishments
A major levee setback effort in 1998 removed over a mile
of levees and restored 127 acres of stream side and
floodplain habitat to natural river processes. In a
separate effort, more than 85 acres of floodplain were
acquired as part of a flood control/levee setback project.
A current project involves replacing an undersized
culvert and re-connecting an oxbow at the 96th Street
wetland on the Puyallup River.
The Coal Mine Creek Fish Passage project replaces a
700-foot widely-altered portion of South Prairie
Creek, one of the most productive streams in the
Puyallup basin, opening up prime spawning and rearing
Scientific Modeling Helps Prioritize Potential
Salmon Habitat Projects
Pierce County established a committee consisting of representatives
from agencies such as the Puyallup Tribe, the Port of
Tacoma, the City of Tacoma, Federal Way, Pierce Conservation
District, the U.S. Forest Service and local non-profits,
and biologists from the County, the State Department
of Fish and Wildlife and NOAA Fisheries. This committee
conducted a scientific analysis to analyze the strategic
importance of different areas for salmon and to identify
targeted restoration and protection efforts.
Limiting the impact of new development is critical
in any highly-urbanized watershed. Pierce County recently
worked with a developer and engineering firm to introduce
low impact development technologies in the Fife Heights
(Meadow on the Hylebos) area. The 8.9 acre site, at
the center of an urban growth area, involves construction
of 35 residential units and is expected to serve as
a model for incorporating low impact development techniques.
- Pierce County
- Puyallup Tribe
- Port of Tacoma
- City of Tacoma
- City of Federal Way
- Pierce Conservation District
- U.S. Forest Service
- WA Department of Fish and Wildlife
- NOAA Fisheries
- Citizens for a Healthy Bay
- Friends of the Hylebos
- WA Department of Natural Resources
- WA Department of Ecology
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