A New Legacy: Restoring our Urban Streams for Salmon

Correcting mistakes of the past

Issaquah, like much of the Pacific Northwest, experienced the boom of the Industrial Age first-hand. Forests were clear-cut for old-growth timber, hillsides were mined for coal, and, in surrounding areas, salmon were harvested much faster than they could possibly reproduce in the rapidly degraded natural environment. By 1900, the forests and riparian zones of Issaquah and its surrounding areas were a wasteland, as the photos in this gallery manage to capture. > >

Stream channels were “armored” (the common practice of fortifying stream banks with concrete, riprap or boulders to prevent erosion after deforestation) and straightened to move water more “efficiently.” Many cleared forests and wetlands were converted to farming or grazing land. These are just a few of the legacies of the past that have brought Pacific Northwest salmon to a breaking point, and which is upon us to solve. However, here in Issaquah and our surrounding communities, we are creating a new legacy: restoring our rivers and streams to be good habitat for salmon once again. Here we share these restoration success stories with you — as well as where to find them. 

What is Stream Restoration
Our goal is to restore our streams to their natural character, in which the aquatic ecosystem can thrive from the bottom up. Nature is not “orderly.” It is not straight. It has life, it has decay. It is varied, not homogenous. With variety, diverse organisms can thrive and play their role in the larger ecosystem. Salmon need all of this. They need riffles, pools, side channels, places to hide, places to rest, places to spawn, and places to rear. Juvenile salmon need an abundance of aquatic organisms upon which to feed. They need trees to shade and keep the waters cool. These are the types of environments we strive to create when we restore streams.

The Restoration Map

With this map, we celebrate Issaquah and Sammamish’s new legacy of restoring rivers and streams for salmon. As you explore the projects on this map, be mindful that each project is just the first step of recovery. The next phase occurs with time — as the forces of water move gravel and sediment, and as streamside vegetation takes root and matures. In time, trees will contribute woody debris to the stream, and falling leaves will decay, adding food and energy to the organisms that live there.

How to use this map: click on a salmon icon below to view a pop-up summary of the project at that location. Then click on its title or thumbnail image to visit the project page we have created for it, including a gallery tour. Enjoy!

User Guide: “hydraulic diversity” and “complexity”
You will see these phrases uses throughout the project descriptions. They simply mean:

Adding different and diverse elements — such as large woody debris and/or wood structures — to the stream channel to encourage a variety of conditions, including pools, side channels, gravel build-up, places for fish to hide, to spawn, and more. These are all elements found in nature, and that is the goal.