Salmon and the Snohomish Watershed
more information about salmon recovery planning in this
watershed, click here to visit the website.
to read this watershed's feedback summary.
Forest lands and wilderness
cover 74 % of the basin; 5 % is agricultural. Urbanization
is concentrated near the estuary.
Located in King and
Snohomish counties, towns and cities in the watershed
include Carnation, Duvall, Everett, Gold Bar, Index,
Lake Stevens, Marysville, Monroe, North Bend, Snohomish,
Snoqualmie, Sultan, and the Tulalip Reservation.
Snohomish Basin is one of the fastest growing areas
in Puget Sound with projected population growth of 59
percent from 2000 to 2030.
The planning area for the
watershed under the state Watershed Management Act
is Watershed Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 7
The Snohomish River Basin in east central Puget Sound has long been
known for its enviable quality of life characterized by attractive
job opportunities, fertile agricultural lands and extensive timber
resources, diverse outdoor recreation, vast areas of public land,
and abundant natural resources extending from Puget Sound to the
Cascade crest. The basin’s varied topography ranges from low,
rolling terrain next to tidewater to the steep Cascade mountains
along the eastern border. The watershed lies in two counties—Snohomish
and King—and covers an area of 1,856 square miles with over
1,700 identified rivers and tributaries.
The Snohomish River empties into Puget Sound north of Everett, the
region’s third largest city and a major industrial and commercial
center which includes the Port of Everett. Some of the best farmlands
remaining in Western Washington flank the Snohomish and the lower
portions of its two major tributaries, the Skykomish and Snoqualmie
The estuary, where the nutrient rich waters of the Snohomish River
come in contact with the saltwater of Possession Sound is home to
at least 350 different kinds of birds and countless varieties of
mammals and plants call this special place home, including blue heron,
eagles, osprey, salmon, seals and otter. It benefits people by acting
as a natural filter that cleans water before it passes into the Sound
and also slows floodwaters.
Myriad streams and creeks in the upper reaches of Puget Sound’s
second largest watershed flow through abundant forestlands and wilderness.
This includes the popular Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
Major Policy or Actions Needed to Recover Salmon
At 59 percent from 2000 to 2030, projected population growth in the
Snohomish watershed is among the highest of any area in Puget Sound.
Areas along the mainstem rivers in some locations and along some
lowland tributaries are most likely to be affected by growth and
development pressures. There is still time for local stakeholders
and decision-makers to find creative solutions that balance social
and economic needs and salmon recovery in the basin, even as they
make difficult trade-offs. The state Growth Management Act’s
Critical Areas Regulation (CAR) and Shorelines Management Programs
have major overlap with salmon recovery planning. Thus the opportunity
exists to coordinate updates to these regulations with current salmon
recovery planning efforts. The Snohomish County Council, with two
Council members participating in local watershed planning efforts,
has the opportunity to take the lead to better integrate recovery
planning and the CAR, a state regulation with potentially major implications
for private land owners.
As with many large rivers in the Puget Sound, urbanization channelized
the Snohomish basin’s mainstem rivers resulting in the loss
of off-channel habitat such as oxbows. This is important salmon
rearing habitat and provides fish shelter from major flood events.
Reconnecting access to those channels for fish in the lower river
is part of a suite of mainstem actions that include restoring bank
edges, riparian forests and creating logjams in strategic locations.
Recovery planners can build on successful restoration efforts to
date by continuing to work effectively with farmers and other private
Agricultural and urban development have significantly altered once-productive
estuarine habitat. Chinook smolt production has decreased by 68%
in blind tidal channel networks. Forty-four miles of dikes isolate
the river from the floodplain. Local landowners are defining a role
they can play with technical support from Snohomish County, the Port
of Everett, City of Everett, Tulalip Tribes, and the state to help
address their needs as well as those of salmon. Specific habitat
restoration needs include reconnecting the blind tidal channel sloughs
and restoring edge habitat complexity along the mainstem and sloughs.
Making Progress—Some Accomplishments
A concentrated effort to protect important estuary lands
began in the 1980s and restoration has accelerated
since 1999. For example, the Tulalip Tribes owns about
300 acres of tidal marshland that they plan to restore.
Since 1998, Snohomish County has purchased about 350
acres with the specific intent to restore them. The
City of Everett has already begun construction to open
estuary habitat at a nearly 100-acre site. Strong interagency
partnerships between Snohomish County, the Tulalip
Tribes, the Port of Everett, the City of Everett and
others have been an essential part of this effort.
Effective Citizen Group
The Snohomish Basin Salmon Recovery Forum is a collaborative,
consensus-based process comprised of 38 members who represent
key interests in the basin. The Forum’s structure
has allowed key members like the Tulalip Tribes to participate
in a collaborative process without relinquishing their
authority. The Forum completed an award-winning draft Salmon
Conservation Plan, a comprehensive and collaborative agreement
to guide strategic investment in salmon and watershed health.
Currently, the Forum is finalizing its chapter toward a
recovery plan for the region as a whole. Some highlights:
- Recommended strategies for working cooperatively
with agriculture, forestry, rural residential, and
- Clear milestones in the critical areas,
particularly the nearshore, estuary, and mainstems
- Active public involvement effort right now to hear
comments on the plan
- Very strong scientific foundation
that included modeling and technical analysis
New Tools Promote Better Decision
Making for People and Salmon
Through fish habitat and decision-making models, the
Tulalip Tribes, Snohomish and King County scientists
and planners and key community stakeholders have advanced
their ability to predict how recovery actions will affect
fish and people. The Forum has used a structured approach
that allows decision makers to understand how recovery
actions will affect other community values, such as the
local farming economy.
- King County
- Snohomish County
- City of Duvall
- City of Everett
- City of Gold Bar
- City of Granite Falls
- City of Lake Stevens
- City of Marysville
- City of Monroe
- City of North Bend
- City of Snohomish
- City of Snoqualmie
- City of Sultan
- Town of Index
- King Conservation District
- Snohomish Conservation District
- Tulalip Tribes
- Tulalip Tribal Member
- Pilchuck Audubon Society
- Cascade Land Conservancy
- The Boeing Company
- Master Builders Association
- Snohomish County Agriculture
- King County Agriculture
- Coordinated Diking Council
- Snohomish County Resident
- King County Resident
- Recreation Group
- Stilly-Snohomish Fisheries Enhancement Task Force
- Snohomish County Sportsmen's Association
- WDFW "ex officio"
- Port of Everett
- City of Seattle
- Cross Valley Water District
- East King County RWA
- Snohomish PUD
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