Squaxin Island Tribe's Natural Resources

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Squaxin Island Tribe, land trust, turning golf course into habitat

April 10th, 2014 by eoconnell Comments Off

Bayshore on Oakland Bay. Photo by the state Department of Ecology.

Bayshore on Oakland Bay. Photo by the state Department of Ecology.

The Capital Land Trust and the Squaxin Island Tribe are working to bring back salmon habitat and protect an important shellfish growing area by restoring a former golf course on Oakland Bay. The land trust recently purchased the 74-acre Bayshore Golf Course, which includes the mouth of Johns Creek and over a thousand feet of Oakland Bay shoreline.

The tribe and the land trust will remove a 1,400 foot dike, restoring the Johns Creek estuary and important marine shoreline. “Taking the dike out will provide salmon with additional acres of saltwater marsh to use as they migrate out to the ocean,” said Jeff Dickison, assistant natural resources director for the tribe..

Eventually, the golf course fairways will also be replanted with native vegetation, restoring a streamside forest that helps provide habitat to salmon.

Preventing development around the bay also protects the most productive shellfish growing area in the state.

The former golf course sits on a peninsula jutting into Oakland Bay that is made up of mostly gravelly glacial outwash. “If the golf course had been sold to developers, the porous nature of the gravel underneath the golf course couldn’t have protected shellfish beds from being polluted by septic tanks,” Dickison said.

The mouth of Johns Creek was the site of one of the largest longhouses and Squaxin villages. “We have always thought of this place as special,” said Andy Whitener, natural resources director for the tribe. “Our people lived there for thousands of years, subsisting on the fish, shellfish and wildlife that was always available.”

The state Department of Ecology also helped the land trust buy the surface water rights associated with the golf course. “Johns Creek doesn’t have enough water to support a weak run of summer chum,” said Scott Stelzner, salmon biologist for the tribe. “By securing this water right, we can balance against increased water appropriations throughout the Johns Creek watershed.

The restoration of the old golf course is part of a larger effort to protect and restore Oakland Bay. The tribe, the land trust and other local partners have protected hundreds of acres of habitat and improved water quality throughout the bay.

“It is important to make sure we protect places like Oakland Bay, before they turn the corner and can’t be saved,” Dickison said. Currently, Oakland Bay is relatively undeveloped, but that could easily change in the next few years.

“The decline of salmon and shellfish directly impacts our culture, economy and our treaty reserved rights,” Whitener said. “Making sure Oakland Bay is healthy is one of the most important things we can do to protect our way of life.”

Comments OffTags: Salmon · Shellfish · Water Quality

Where Water Flows Underground

January 24th, 2014 by Erica Marbet Comments Off

This photo is from the LOTT reclaimed water website. http://www.lottcleanwater.org/reclaimed.htm

This photo is from the LOTT reclaimed water website. http://www.lottcleanwater.org/reclaimed.htm

The LOTT Clean Water Alliance in Olympia is at the intersection many serious water issues in our region.

  • The Thurston County population continues to grow and therefore produce more wastewater.
  • For the health of South Puget Sound, LOTT is limited in how much wastewater it can discharge to Budd Inlet.
  • In order to avoid discharging treated wastewater into Budd Inlet, LOTT treats wastewater to almost drinkable quality (“Reclaimed Water”), and infiltrates it into the ground at a site up near Hawks Prairie.
  • A growing population requires adequate sources of water for drinking and many other uses.
  • Most basins in Thurston County are closed to new water rights, and some streamflows are low compared to historical levels.
  • Groundwater is connected to surface water.

Once reclaimed water infiltrates into the Hawks Prairie site and to two other proposed new sites, it will move with groundwater and into the vicinity of drinking water wells.  Reclaimed water will be treated as it moves underground, and it will eventually find its way to nearby streams and to the Deschutes River.  This could be very beneficial for augmenting stream and river flows.  However some residual chemicals may remain in reclaimed water.  These chemicals would come from household products like medicines, shampoos, and cleaning products.  Imagine you are a fish swimming in the Deschutes River.  You could be swimming in the last traces of ibuprofen, Mr. Clean, and Dial soap left in LOTT’s reclaimed water. Imagine pouring water from your tap.  Though drinkable, it could have the smallest trace of other people’s antibiotic prescriptions, bathroom cleaner, and Head and Shoulders.   These chemicals may already be in groundwater and surface water, because thousands of septic tanks are in the ground in Thurston County.  Septic tank waste is not nearly as thoroughly treated as reclaimed water, but it too will eventually connect to groundwater.

Reclaimed water could be a very good tool for water conservation, but it is a new tool in Thurston County.  LOTT is currently planning a study to determine if residual chemicals remain in reclaimed water as it moves through groundwater and eventually to streams.  You can find a link to the study plan at http://www.lottcleanwater.org/pdf/groundwater.pdf.  As a representative of the Tribe, I sit on the science task force for the reclaimed water infiltration study. The role of the science task force and also a community advisory group and independent peer review team is to provide input on the planning and implementation of the study.

To support the tribe’s treaty reserved right to harvest, salmon need good spawning habitat and an adequate supply of clean water.  In some streams, there is not enough water. LOTT’s reclaimed water may help increase flows, but the chemical content of that water when it reaches streams is unknown. Also unknown are the potential effects on animals and plants in the water and on humans. The results of this study will turn those unknowns into solid information and answers.

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Week 46 South Sound Fall Chum Test Fishery at Apple Cove

November 19th, 2013 by Joseph Peters Comments Off

Thursday November 14th, 2013 was the final day of test fishing for South Sound fall chum at Apple Cove Point. They got a bit of a late start after some mechanical problems with the skiff, but eventually managed to get in 5 sets. Catches were low, as might be expected for week 46. They caught 143 chum (plus 2 coho and 3 immature Chinook) in 5 sets, for a catch-per-set of just 29 chum.

They also had a sea lion active in the seine during at least two of the sets (including the day’s biggest set). The proportion of females was about the same as last week, 58%. The age distribution for the catch was 3 year old at 34.5%, 4 year old at 63.8%, and 5 year old at 1.7%.

Watch this video of the South Sound Fall Chum Test Fishery at Apple Cove :

WDFW had purse seine openings on Monday (11-11-2013) and Wednesday (11-13-2013) and caught a total of 72K chum with 84 purse seine landings.  Both days the fleet was split pretty evenly between areas 10 and 11. On Monday 11-11-2013 the larger catches were in area 11 but Wednesday 11-13-2013  they were pretty much equal.   WDFW had observers out on the boats during Wednesday’s fishery and the largest set they saw was for 500 fish in area 11.  WDFW observed 9 sets is area 10 of which 3 were about 200 fish, 5 were for 50-100 fish and 1 was a water haul.  WDFW commercial chum catch to date was estimated to be at 225K.

Apple Cove Test fishery ISU models ranged from 543K to 637K.  The ISU models using WDFW purse seine catch data are a bit higher than the Test Fishery’s.  They range from 652-720K.  Regional catches for Tribes appeared to decline through out the Puget Sound with the exception of Squaxin Island Tribe. Puyallup reported that there are very few chum returning to the river.  Winter chum  are beginning to show up in the Nisqually. Current catch for Squaxin Island Tribe  as of November 16th is at 67, 071 chum.

Week 46 Puget Sound Fall Chum Runsize  was updated to 550K, down from last weeks update of 600k.

Totten Inlet and Skookum Inlet are at escapement.  The last Kennedy Creek stream survey on November 14th resulted in 11,890 live and 1,882 dead.   We are seeing a good number of chum in Eld Inlet as well as in Perry, McLane, and Swift creeks.  Eld is well on its way to escapement.

 

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Week 45 Apple Tree Cove Test Fishery Update

November 7th, 2013 by Joseph Peters Comments Off

Chum caught by a Squaxin Fishermen during a Totten Inlet Drift fishery November 2013.

Chum caught by Squaxin Fishermen during a Totten Inlet Drift – November 2013.

The week-45 South Sound chum test fishery at Apple Cove Point provided decent catches yesterday but nothing spectacular. They caught at total of 902 chum (plus 10 coho and 2 immature Chinook) in six sets which compares pretty well with historic week-45 catches. The tides were not ideal, ebbing during all but the first set. The proportion of females in their sample rose this week to 59%. The overall catch appeared to have more small fish, scales samples had not been delivered to the WDFW scale lab in time enough to be shared at this time, so we won’t have the age distribution. Many of the fish were still quite bright.

Models supported an update to the South Sound chum runsize ranging from 550,000 to 750,000.

Non-treaty fleet to date has caught 148,648 fish.  This week Non-treaty had 63 Purse Seine boats with a total of 25,000 chum caught.  Two thirds of the fleet was in area 10.   

Total Tribal catch to date is  94,855 fish. Tribal catches appeared to be lower this week for the northern tribes.  Squaxin Island Tribe was the only tribe to be showing a substantial increase in catches.  Squaxin total catch as of November 7th is 32,405 chum.  

Based on the Week 45 models and regional catch data the Tribes and WDFW agreed to update the runsize to 600,000.  This is down 60,000 from Week 44.  This decrease in runsize adjusts the Treaty share to 268,959 and the Non-Treaty Commercial hare to 261,476. Leaving approximately 174K left of Treaty and 112K left for Non-treaty commercial to harvest.

Comments OffTags: Salmon

Week 43 South Sound Chum Test Fishery Update

October 24th, 2013 by Joseph Peters Comments Off

Salmon test fishery 4

Just a quick summary on the WK43 test fishery info:

South Sound chum test fishing at Apple Cove Point improved this week. Yesterdays test fishery caught a total of 3,456 chum in five sets (plus 51 coho and 15 immature Chinook). Heavy fog all day prevented them from completing the usual six sets. Tides were also not ideal, although it was ebbing during all of the sets, which is good. The sex ratio of our sample was apparently 56%, though there may be reason to question whether that estimate is accurate or perhaps overestimates females. Age distribution: 70.7% age 4, 20.2% age 3, 8.10% age 5, and 1% age 6. The average weight of the chum was estimated at just under 9 pounds.

WDFW catches were fairly low catch because most of the purse seine effort was in the Hood Canal. WDFW had 14 purse seine landings in Puget Sound Areas 10/11  for 12,493 fish with an additional 3,000 catch from gill nets (15,493 total state catch).  The total Treaty catch to date is 15,338 ( Squaxin catch 2,970 chum).

State catch models supported an increase of the runsize as high as 750K. Test fishery models supported an increase to the chum runsize to 640K.   After discussion of regional catches and runsize models the Tribes and State agreed to increase the chum runsize to 500K from 350K.      Week 44 Apple Cove Test fishery will go as scheduled next Wednesday October 30th.   WDFW will continue to fish as scheduled.

Treaty/Non-treaty shares are 225,514 / 225,514.

We did get Kennedy stream count estimate from WDFW and they counted 672  live- 7 Dead chum from the falls down to the mouth.  They also saw 20 live coho and 1 dead coho.  This is on track for Kennedy creek fall chum run-timing, especially for the low water and stream flow.

If you have any questions please contact Joe Peters, Fish Biologist/Harvest Manager at jcpeters@squaxin.us or 360-432-3813

Comments OffTags: Salmon

Week 42-Apple Tree Cove Chum Test Fishery Update

October 22nd, 2013 by Joseph Peters Comments Off

During the chum salmon season Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC) conducts the Apple Tree Cove Chum test fishery in Area 10 (Near Kingston, Washington), weekly for four weeks. This test fishery has been on going for over 30 years. In this test fishery the catches are used to update the inseason Puget Sound Fall Chum runsize. Catch results are plugged into a model with historical test fishery data to determine a runsize. After each of these test fisheries, harvest managers from Washington Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Puget Sound Tribes conference call on the results as well as share regional catches.  Based on this data the Tribal/WDFW harvest managers make a decision to increase or decrease the Puget Sound Chum runsize.

The second day of test fishing for chum at Apple Cove Point Wednesday October 16th, ended with results much the same as last week (464 chum). They caught a total of 494 chum in six sets, along with by-catch of 47 coho and 6 immature Chinook. The tides were somewhat more favorable than the previous week, flooding during the middle of the day. Based on the sample (n=220), they estimate the catch was 46% female, which falls within the range of typical sex ratios for week 42. Week 42 samples also comprised of 83% of age 4 year old chum.

NWIFC regional biologist put together several regression models, of which are not particularly strong to update the runsize. The strongest model suggests increasing the runsize to 400K, the Tribes and WDFW felt that the models supported keeping the preseason forecast of  349K as the chum runsize.   Week 43 test fishery will be conducted Wednesday October 23rd.   Data from week 43 test fishery and this weeks catches from WDFW and Puget Sound Tribes will be useful tools to determine if the chum runsize will increase or decrease .

Current catches to date for Squaxin is just under 1,000 chum.   Kennedy Creek is starting to get chum, with last weeks adult spawner survey counting 189 live chum and 0 dead from the falls to the mouth.

For more details regarding the Apple Tree Cove Chum Test fishery and chum management, please attend the Fish Committee scheduled for 5pm October 30th, 2013 @ Council Chambers.

Fish Committee October 30th, 2013 Meeting Announcement

Comments OffTags: Salmon

Legislative funding kick-starts Deschutes Watershed Center

September 24th, 2013 by eoconnell Comments Off

With over $7 million in state funding, the Deschutes Watershed Center in Tumwater will finally start taking shape in the coming years.

The watershed center will be a fully functional salmon hatchery operated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. It will enhance existing state hatchery operations at Tumwater Falls Park. The project will also entail a new facility at upstream Pioneer Park and will create new opportunities for community involvement.

“We want to make this much more than a salmon hatchery,” said Andy Whitener, natural resources director for the Squaxin Island Tribe. As natural resources co-managers, the tribe has been working closely with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and other local partners for 10 years to fund the project.

In addition to a new rearing facility, the watershed center will also educate the local community about salmon. “There is a real opportunity here for this facility to be a showpiece our region’s hatchery system,” said Jeff Dickison, assistant natural resources director for the tribe.

Read more about the Deschutes Watershed Center here.

“The watershed project will provide needed trail connections from the new hatchery facility at Pioneer Park to the Deschutes Falls fish ladder and beyond. People would be able to visit the hatchery and then walk all the way to saltwater,” Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet stated. “This should help people understand the life cycle of the salmon and the importance of the Deschutes watershed as a whole in contributing to their survival.”

Most of the funding provided by the legislature will go to renovate the existing facilities at Tumwater Falls. The remaining $1.3 million will go towards preparing the Pioneer Park site. This work will include building a water delivery system, expanding trails and installing educational signs.

“These funds won’t finish out the project, but this will certainly get us down the road quite a bit,” Dickison said.

Currently, all of the fish released at the Deschutes hatchery are raised in several other facilities around Puget Sound. By keeping all aspects of the hatchery in one facility, chances of spreading fish diseases decrease and salmon survival increases. Even though the number of fish raised and released won’t increase from around 3.8 million annually, the number of chinook returning every year will.

“The current program on the Deschutes is piecemeal,” Dickison said. “There isn’t enough room to rear the fish that will eventually be released. To have a successful program, everything from spawning to rearing and release needs to be in the same place.”

More than 30 percent of the fish produced at the Deschutes hatchery are caught in sport fisheries in Puget Sound. These anglers catch the largest portion of any fishery targeting Deschutes chinook. “These chinook are vital to a lot of fisheries because they’re caught everywhere from Alaska to Budd Inlet,” Whitener said. “They also provide the backbone for our own chinook fisheries.”

(END)

For more information, contact: Jeff Dickison, Assistant Natural Resources Director, Squaxin Island Tribe, (360) 432-3815. Heidi Behrends Cerniwey, Communications & Marketing Specialist
City of Tumwater, (360) 754-4128, hcerniwey@ci.tumwater.wa.us

Comments OffTags: Deschutes Watershed Center

Capitol Lake is the cause of low dissolved oxygen in Budd Inlet

July 16th, 2013 by eoconnell Comments Off

Budd Inlet has a dissolved oxygen problem. In short, there isn’t enough oxygen in the water near Olympia to support healthy marine life.

And, the primary reason for this dramatic drop in oxygen is Capitol Lake.

Recent findings released by the state Department of Ecology point out that even if all of the other problems that cause low oxygen went away (other than the lake), most of the problems in Budd Inlet would still exist.

Low dissolved oxygen is important because fish and other marine life need enough oxygen to live. Capitol Lake is shallow, stagnant and fills each summer with algae, so the water flowing out of it is extremely low in dissolved oxygen.

Some people have argued that the real problems we face in deep South Sound have don’t have anything to do with Capitol Lake. But, as the results from Ecology show, even if we moved the LOTT treatment outfall to Priest Point or Boston Harbor, implemented advanced treatment at waste water treatment plants and reduced all other influences on dissolved oxygen, Capitol Lake is still the biggest problem.

These maps shows all of the parts of southern Budd Inlet that violate water quality standards. Each colored area (from blue to red) indicates by how much water quality standards are violated. These maps were presented at the most recent meeting of the Deschutes watershed TMDL advisory committee.

This is current conditions, with the lake in place and a host of other issues:

Current day

This is the map if everything else was cleaned up and just the lake remains:

Lower Budd just the lake

And, this is the map if the lake was removed and the rest of the problems were taken care of:

Current condition no dam

Clearly what happens when you try to clean up the rest of the issues and just leave the dam is that the dissolved oxygen problem remains. You’ll still have some issues if you do nothing else and take the dam out, but Capitol Lake is clearly the leading cause of low dissolved oxygen in Budd Inlet.

Comments OffTags: Deschutes River Estuary

Restoring Mission Creek At Priest Point Park

June 25th, 2013 by Scott Steltzner Comments Off

ThurstonTalk http://www.thurstontalk.com published a piece on a proposed restoration project in lower Budd Inlet.  As the article points out, cooperative projects that involve multiple agencies will be necessary to achieve recovery in Puget Sound.

By SarahJoy Smith

Priest Point Park is an oasis right at the edge of Olympia. The park is 341 acres in size, and boasts a full mile of shoreline right on Budd Bay. On a clear day you can stand at the shoreline and see a full view of the capitol rotunda in one direction, and the Olympic mountain range in its entire splendor in the other. But far more than just a beautiful view, Priest Point has much to offer its visitors in the way of outdoor fun as well.

As one of the largest within the city limits, the park offers a little something for everyone. Covered picnic facilities, complete with BBQ and outdoor “kitchen” amenities like running water, are available to the public for a reasonable fee. Many a gathering, graduation, and even the occasional wedding are held here. A formal rose garden is maintained in the spring and summer months that makes for a beautiful backdrop for such events.
priest point park

priest point park

Private and public organizations are joining forces to clean up Mission Creek.

Miles of trails meander through the wooded areas of the park, most of which provide relatively easy walks that even the smaller kids can do. But if the kids are less interested in walking there is always the large and inviting playground. Not to mention there is plenty of room to play by the water when the tide is out.

For the nature lover this is a wonderful place to observe wildlife. Heron, otter, eagle, seal, and even deer are some of the many wild residents seen daily by visitors.

This year, the park is getting some much needed restoration work to an area on the far eastern border known as Mission Creek. For centuries Mission Creek was a salmon run. Then sometime around 70 years ago it was paved over as a road.

Today all that remains is quite a bit of “rubble”, and a bulkhead which is acting as a block to salmon trying to enter the creek. The restoration will remove both rubble and a portion of the bulkhead. Then native vegetation will be replanted, invasive species removed, and some aesthetic changes will be made along the adjacent path to make it more welcoming for both people and salmon.

The restoration of Mission Creek has been a long time in the making. The main participants were proud to point out the joint effort between several different agencies. The Port of Olympia, City of Olympia, South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group (SPSSEG), Squaxin Island Tribe, a funding group called Salmon Recovery Funding Board, and other agencies to a lesser extent have been working together for ten years to get approval for this restoration. As Lance Winecka, SPSSEG Executive Director pointed out, “It takes perseverance, but the take-home message is that we can work together with everyone to do what is right.”

The significance of the Mission Creek project is twofold. To begin with, at the completion of this project the entire shoreline of the park will have been restored to its natural state. Another bulkhead was actually removed at the opposite end of the park a few years back. But more importantly, this creek is the last remaining estuary within the area.
priest point park

priest point park

Restoration work at Mission Creek is returning the area to original habitat.

An estuary by definition is a place where salt water and fresh water meet. Throughout human history estuaries are the places that people live near because they provide many resources. As you can imagine the health of an estuary and the health of the people who live near that estuary are intertwined. Moreover, this restoration has the intended purpose of bringing the salmon back to an original spawning ground.

Salmon are an indicator species, which means that their presence or absence is a measure of how healthy a waterway is. When the salmon disappear it is a telltale sign that something is wrong with the natural balance of an area. Hence the reason this project was finally approved. Alex Smith, Senior Environmental Planning Manager for the Port of Olympia has been part of this effort for many years. “If (a site) has some kind of impairment, like Mission Creek does, it is a great candidate for funding because it can restore the salmon, which is good for all of us,” said Smith.

Her counterparts with the City and SPSSEG agree with this sentiment. David Hanna, Associate Director for City of Olympia Parks and Recreation department, feels that this is a win-win for salmon and people. “Doing as much as we can to restore an area, so long as it does not do damage to the relationship between the people and the park is important,” said Hanna. “Here we are returning a degraded system back to nature, and making the park better.”

If all continues to go according to plan the project is set to begin in late August and completed no later than September 15. The park will remain open during the restoration and is not anticipated to affect visitors, so be sure to make your way there. And by this fall with any luck you may even get to see some salmon in Mission Creek attempting to return to their long forgotten home.

For more information about volunteering for the restoration project please contact Michelle Stevie at mstevie@ci.olympia.wa.us.

Comments OffTags: habitat · Salmon

Squaxin Island 2013 Annual Commercial Net Fishing Regulations

June 21st, 2013 by Joseph Peters Comments Off

On June 13th, 2013, Squaxin Island Tribal Council approved the 2013 Annual Commercial Net Fishing Regulations.   These annual regulations consist of the:  2013 Annual Commercial Net Fishing Regulations of The Squaxin Island Tribe with 2013 Fall Chinook Net Fishing Reglations (AR-13-01)   2103/2014 Coho and Chum Commercial Net Regulations of The Squaxin Island Tribe (AR-13-02)    A fishery is open by Emergency Regulation that is filed by the Squaxin Island Natural Resources Department.  Each Emergency Regulation will be posted at the Squaxin Natural Resources Department as well as online at the  Squaxin Island Website.  A summary of Emergency Regulations will also be provided on a twenty-four (24) hour “hotline” by calling 360-432-3899.

Questions regarding any Squaxin Island Treaty Net fishing please contact:
Joseph Peters
Squaxin Island Fisheries Management Biologist
360-432-3813 or jcpeters@squaxin.us 

2013 forecasts for deep south Puget Sound stocks

Fall Chinook

Comments OffTags: Salmon