Salmon habitat restoration underway at Quil Ceda Creek

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

With shovels in hands and the desire for a brighter future, not just for our community but also for the precious wildlife like the salmon, the Tulalip Tribes, in coordination with Adopt a Stream, hosted a tree planting event on Saturday, April 20, along Quil Ceda Creek. A celebration of Earth Day, nearly 100 people united for the finishing touches on this vital project to preserve salmon runs and combat global warming, locally. 

By creating shade along the creek, Tulalip hopes to counteract rising temperatures caused by global warming. With thousands of trees now planted, the goal is that 85% will thrive, helping maintain cooler water temperatures in the stream. This is crucial for the salmon habitat, as the trees will cover a little over a quarter mile of stream after their growth. This will ensure a lower temperature in the stream, a critical factor in keeping the fish healthy and thriving for years to come, thus preserving the salmon population. 

Quil Ceda Creek was in such poor condition that it was listed as impaired or threatened waters under the 303(d) list, a water quality assessment conducted by the Department of Ecology every two years. This provided an opportunity for the tribe to obtain a 319 grant from the Department of Ecology. The 319 grants, a crucial part of the Clean Water Act, provide funding to state and tribal agencies to improve various waterways. In this case, the grant allowed the tribe to receive substantial financial support to restore the creek. The funds were used to remove all invasive species and plant trees on both sides of the creek, up to a distance of 100 feet, a significant step towards restoring the creek’s ecosystem.

“We received the grant about three years ago,” said Walter Rung, Adopt a Stream fish and wildlife habitat program manager. “Since then, we have had to do a lot of work to get it to where it is today. The main focus has been on providing shade to keep the water cool. Our summers seem to have been getting drier and hotter, so the shade these plants create will help combat that. If the water temperature goes above 68 degrees, it becomes lethal for the salmon, and it’s getting close to that temperature. When you look at the site, you’ll see that there are no native plants or shade, so this will be a great thing for the stream.”

Volunteers of all ages, including members of the Tulalip Tribes and local residents, gathered along the banks of Quil Ceda Creek, eager to contribute to the restoration efforts. With each tree planted, a sense of hope and determination filled the air as community members worked hand in hand to protect the ecosystem they hold dear. Their dedication reflects a shared commitment to preserving the creek’s natural beauty and safeguarding its inhabitants for future generations.

“I came to help plant trees for Earth Day,” Tulalip tribal youth JoyAnn Rose Higginbotham said. “This will help shade the stream for the salmon and provide the three c’s: cold, clean, and clear. This will help ensure me and my people can enjoy salmon for the future.”