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!

In 2018, the City of Sammamish replaced a pipe culvert barrier under East Lake Sammamsih Parkway with a fish friendly passage, and re-aligned and restored a 400-foot section of Zackuse Creek. King County replaced pipe culverts under East Lake Sammamish Trail and an adjacent road crossing with similar fish friendly passages. Zackuse Creek is one of just four spawning creeks used by these endangered kokanee. (CLICK THE THUMBNAIL IMAGE to visit the project page.)
This was a followup to Phase 1 (conducted two years earlier in 2004). The City of Issaquah restored 600 feet of Issaquah Creek in a 4.6 acre area. (CLICK THE THUMBNAIL IMAGE to visit the project page.)
Removed a streamside levee, restored 6 acres and 1,100 feet of stream. Added wood and wood structures and planted native riparian vegetation. (CLICK THE THUMBNAIL IMAGE to visit the project page.)
Removed a 12-foot tall diversion dam which blocked salmon passage and replaced it with a series of boulder weirs and new water intake system. (CLICK THE THUMBNAIL IMAGE to visit the project page.)
The City of Issaquah removed a barrier to fish passage and restored 600 feet of kokanee spawning habitat along the creek. Lewis Creek is one of just four spawning creeks used by endangered Lake Sammamish kokanee. (CLICK THE THUMBNAIL IMAGE to visit the project page.)
In 2022, the City of Issaquah will replace a pipe culvert barrier at East Lake Sammamish Parkway (ELSP) with a fish-friendly passage and relocate a significant section of the creek to a forested area within State Park property. Laughing Jacobs Creek is one of just four spawning creeks for endangered Lake Sammamish kokanee. (CLICK THE THUMBNAIL IMAGE to visit the project page.)
In the summer of 2022, Washington State Parks and the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust will undertake an ambitious restoration of Issaquah Creek throughout Lake Sammamish State Park. (CLICK THE THUMBNAIL IMAGE to visit the project page.)
In 2021, the City of Sammamish will replace the culvert barrier under East Lake Sammamish Parkway with a fish-friendly box culvert and restore a section of the creek upstream to spawning habitat. In 2022, King County will replace their culvert barrier under the East Lake Sammamish Trail with a similar fish-friendly passage. Ebright Creek is one of just four spawning creeks for endangered Lake Sammamish kokanee. (CLICK THE THUMBNAIL IMAGE to visit the project page.)
A park 20 years in the making, the City of Issaquah restored 14,000 feet of Issaquah Creek and the East Fork of Issaquah Creek. (CLICK THE THUMBNAIL IMAGE to visit the project page.)
The most expensive capital project in City of Issaquah history. An 800 foot bridge was installed to connect 62nd Street to Lake Drive, while providing benefits to salmon. A new wetlands was created and a section of the North Fork of Issaquah Creek was relocated and restored. (CLICK THE THUMBNAIL IMAGE to visit the project page.)

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.