Squalicum Creek will be re-routed over the summer to improve water quality and habitat for salmon and other species living along the stream corridor. Construction begins mid-July 2015.
Squalicum Creek is considered impaired for dissolved oxygen, fecal coliform, and temperature on the Department of Ecology's list of impaired water bodies. For detailed information on these listings, see the
Department of Ecology's website.
Even though the health of the creek's ecosystem is negatively impacted by fish passage blockages, declining salmon stocks and water quality exceedances, the creek has the greatest potential for high water quality and fish habitat within Bellingham city limits.
Historically, Squalicum Creek has provided roughly 32 miles of accessible salmon habitat. It is the least hindered by development and offers the most habitat variety in its numerous branch
tributaries. Each species of salmon needs a particular type of habitat for rearing juvenile fry. Habitat variety accommodates different species in different stages of their lifecycles.
“The project benefits all wildlife,” said Renee LaCroix, ecology and restoration manager. “Not just the salmon.”
At first, the trees and vegetation along the new stream corridor will be cleared, but trees of the appropriate size will be salvaged for habitat placement. Habitat structures — including large woody debris, boulders and stream bed sediment — will be installed to accommodate multiple species of salmon, cutthroat and steelhead trout, amphibians, mammals (such as deer, beavers, raccoons, muskrats, river otters, mink, and weasels) and bird species. Afterward, the old channel will be filled with the excavated soil and stream flow will be routed into the new channel.
Ultimately, the goal is to implement a plan that sustains itself in perpetuity, LaCroix said. As native plants and trees grow along the stream corridor, they create shade for the creek, which contributes to lowered temperatures, more dissolved oxygen and improved habitat for salmon and other animals. As time goes on, the corridor will be able to accommodate more species and their respective needs. The project can be considered a piece in the puzzle of remedying Squalicum Creek's ecosystem health.
Construction to begin July 1
Construction will happen in two concurrent phases. Phase 1 will stretch from the corner of Birchwood Avenue and Squalicum Parkway under I-5 to James Street. Phase 2 will run from James Street eastward to Irongate Road. The Department of Ecology has granted $1.7 million for the first phase and $2.1 million for the second in a grant-loan package.
Plans for the project take hydrology, climate patterns, geology and the ecology of the watershed into consideration to ensure that the changes are self-sustaining while accommodating the needs of an urban environment. Construction will occur in a fish window ̶ a designated time of year when work can occur while minimizing risk to the fish ̶ as
permitted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife between July 1 and October 15, 2015.
This reroute construction work coordinates with other projects along the Squalicum Corridor, including: the James Street Bridge replacement, Bay to Baker trail, Bakerview Road/James Street intersection, Woodstock/James streets intersection improvements and the Orchard Street Extension.