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Central Puget Sound

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Stream Blog for Miller and Walker Creeks:
Observations from the Stream Bank During 2010

This Web page records observations of Miller and Walker Creeks from the people who live, work, and play alongside them. Observations during 2010 are on:

  • Water quality and quantity
  • Fish presence
  • Efforts by people to improve the heath of the stream basin

View the 2009 stream blog.

View the 2008 stream blog.

View the 2007 stream blog.

Reports from CSI: Highline on adult fish sightings in fall 2010 are available here.

Date: December 16, 2010
Location: Walker Wetland east of Des Moines Memorial Drive at S. 176th St. in Burien
Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward
Observation: Continuing the good work done begun in 2009, students from the Highline School District Waskowitz Environmental Leadership Semester (WELS) worked enthusiastically to control three common invasive plants found in the urban environment: Himalayan blackberry, English laurel, and English ivy.  Nine students and four staff worked with me for three hours to cut and dig these invasive plants.  Removing invasives will reduce competition with native plants resident in the wetland and those planted as part of the 2008 sewer line/trail construction.  The Walker Wetland is the headwaters of Walker Creek and serves a sponge to absorb and filter stormwater.

Photo of people in yellow rain gear watching a demonstration of how to identify weeds
First the students learn how to identify different invasive plants.  Here they see a Himalayan blackberry and learn how it is different from the native trailing blackberry, which also is common on the site.

Photo of people working in a wooded area next to a gravel trail
The students spread out and get to work.  The area in the lower right hand area was cleared of Himalayan blackberry by a previous work party.  The main wetland body is beyond the trees in the center and right of the photo.  Winter is a good time to control blackberry because its evergreen leaves stand out amidst the brown of most other plants.

Photo of small tree falling after it has been cut
The students tapped into their "inner Paul Bunyan" when they learned they could cut down invasive English holly bushes that had grown to the height of small trees in the good growing conditions next to the wetland.  Note the Douglas fir trees to the left and right.  These and other native trees and shrubs were planted in 2008 by the Southwest Suburban Sewer District and are growing well, in part thanks to control of invasives.

Date: December 12, 2010
Location: Miller and Walker Creeks Basin
Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward
Observation: In a 48 hour period ending at 6 p.m. on December 12, 3.58 inches of rain fell in the basin (2.19 inches fell on December 12 alone).  Miller and Walker Creeks both flooded, most significantly in the floodplain above where the streams enter Puget Sound.

Photos of the flooding on December 12 at the Cove from a CSI: Highline team are here.

Photo of man standing on top of eroded bank of small stream
The December 11-12 storm caused substantial erosion and changed where the streams flow. This December 16, 2010 photo shows fresh erosion caused when the stream shifted from its main channel (behind the photographer) to what was a side channel in front of the photographer.  The side channel is several feet wider than before the storm due to the erosion.  The location is Miller Creek upstream from the sewer plant in Normandy Park.  Photo courtesy of Jon Jones.

Photo of stream bank in process of being restored
The photo above shows a part of the planting test plot installed at the Southwest Suburban Sewer District in October.  Compare this photo to those from October. The December 11-12 storm ripped away the straw wattles at the foot of the slope and eroded some of the plants in the lower half of the slope.  The line of debris shows the water level got half way up the slope!  Fortunately, the coir fabric to control erosion where the English ivy was removed mostly held in place.  Concern about the effects of possible high flows on this planting area was one of the reasons for doing a small, 70-foot long test plot initially.  Staff will examine the damage and determine what can be learned before expanding the revegetation area along the fish ladder.  December 16, 2010 photo courtesy of Jon Jones.

Date: November 20, 2010
Location: Arbor Lake, the headwaters of Miller Creek in Burien
Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward
Observation: Arbor Lake is a pleasant little lake in north Burien that is the headwaters of Miller Creek.  Although not accessible to anadromous fish such as salmon, the lake supports many birds and a variety of freshwater fish.  The neighbors are eager to volunteer for their park and today they were joined by other watershed residents for the first park stewardship project in many years.  In partnership with Lisa Aumann from Burien Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, we worked with 21 volunteers to remove a massive amount of Scotch broom and Himalayan blackberry from the the riparian planting zones along the shoreline.  We got about half the job done and expect to complete the south and west shoreline weeding in winter 2011.

Photo of Scotch broom growing behind a fence
The photo above shows the thicket of Scotch broom growing in the habitat buffer next to Arbor Lake before the volunteers got started on November 20.

Photo of people next to fence
This photo shows roughly the same area as the photo above it after the volunteers had removed the Scotch broom on November 20.  You can actually see Arbor Lake in the background.  The opened up areas will be planted with more native trees and shrubs in fall 2011.

Photo of two men standing next to a large pile of weeds
The photo above shows volunteers Mark (l) and Larry standing next to the pile of green waste generated by volunteers at Arbor Lake on November 20.  Most of the green waste was Scotch broom, which was pulled out of the ground using the orange tool known as a weed wrench.

Date: October 28, 2010
Location: Multiple locations on Miller and Walker Creeks in Normandy Park
Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward
Observation: Interested in first-hand account from volunteers participating in the Community Salmon Investigation for Highline?  Here's a report from the Thursday team of Jon Jones and Paul Codd to other team members that gives you a sense of what has been the most productive day of surveying yet this season:

Although both Lower Miller and Lower Walker were uneventful for us, we did have the good fortune of spotting five living adult coho and a large dead male coho.

On the Upper Walker Creek site we spotted two males courting a female and sparring quite vigorously with each other for what looked to be an in-process redd when we came upon this threesome at the top of a riffle just upstream from the bamboo section. Look for our flagging to mark this possible redd location.

After the excitement from Walker Creek we went to the Upper Miller location and were rewarded first with the heavily chewed upon dead male which is staked on the water's edge of the left bank on the Fish property upstream of the big pools where Dennis cut our new path.  Shortly after that, near  the upstream end of our survey area, we were fortunate enough to come upon a male and female courting each other at the top of a riffle/bottom of the pool just below the big fern covered boulder on the left bank.  The flagging to mark this possible redd is tied to an overhanging branch that is about a yard downstream.

Good luck to all with your surveys and I hope you have as much fun as we had.

 

 

 

Date: October 16, 2010
Location: Southwest Suburban Sewer District plant (external link) in Normandy Park
Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward
Observation: 23 volunteers worked with me today to plant 36 native trees and shrubs on the newest stream restoration project on Miller and Walker Creeks.  The goal was to remove English ivy from along the stream and replace it with native trees and shrubs that will overhang the stream, providing shade and insects to feed the fish.  The planting area is relatively small -- 70 feet by 15 feet -- to allow us to test erosion control and planting techniques in a challenging area that is steep, largely composed of boulders, and exposed to high stream flows.  If this test plot performs well, the planting area will be expanded in future years in partnership with the Southwest Suburban Sewer District.

The photos below show the transformation of this site that culminated in the October 16 planting.  The last photo shows high flows in the creek on October 25.

Photo of ivy-covered streambank
The photo above shows the test plot area at the Southwest Suburban Sewer District on June 28, 2010.  This photo looks downstream; Miller Creek flows from left to right.  A two-foot thick layer of ivy covers large boulders on the streambank.

Photo of backhoe removing ivy from stream bank
Expert backhoe operator Mike, an employee with the Southwest Suburban Sewer District, pulls the mat of English ivy off the bank on September 28, 2010.

Photo of streambank covered in brown, coir fabric cloth following removal of ivy
As the ivy is removed, a layer of coir fabric is laid on the slope.  Wooden stakes hold the fabric, made of coconut husks, in place to keep soil from eroding into the stream.  A row of straw wattles at the base of the slope provides backup erosion control.  Spray-painted white circles on the fabric, visible at lower left, are locations of soil pockets to aid in planting.  September 28, 2010 photo.

Photo of people planting trees on a coir cloth-covered stream bank
The photo above shows volunteers planting native trees and shrubs in the test plot on Miller Creek on October 16, 2010.  Volunteers had to work carefully to find suitable pockets of soil between the boulders that are covered by the coir fabric.  A dozen volunteers were from the National Honors Society of Highline High School, which is located in Burien in the Miller Creek basin.

Photo of native plants planted in coir cloth-covered stream bank
The photo above shows the test plot with all plants in the ground at Noon on October 16.  Volunteers placed wood chip mulch on the top of the slope and around plants on the upper half of the slope to help suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.  Wood chip mulch won't be placed around plants at the bottom of the slope because high flows during the winter could carry it away.  Mulch will be placed around the plants low on the slope in the spring.  Note the height of the wall above the water and compare it to the photo below.

Photo of high flows in a stream
The photo above shows Miller Creek at the test plot on October 25, 2010.  Compare this photo to the one above to see how high the water level is.  Neither the concrete wall of the fish ladder nor the row of straw wattles at the base of the slope is visible!  At the moment this photo was taken, the stream gage one-third of a mile downstream was reading 84 cubic feet per second and continuing to rise, suggesting the flow here was even higher when the photo was taken.  Miller Creek flows can exceed 240 cubic feet per second and the water level here can get close to the bottom of the bridge downstream.  These challenging conditions were the reason for employing a test plot planting rather than removing a large amount of ivy at once.  The plants, coir fabric, and straw wattles all survived this high flow episode.

Date: September 21, 2010
Location: Arbor Lake, headwaters to Miller Creek
Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward
Observation: I took a sample of algae scum at the lake outlet and had it sampled for microcystin, a toxin that damages liver cells.  This toxin was found in algae in Lake Burien beginning in August (see the yellow box on the home page).  The Arbor Lake sample showed the toxin present but at an extremely low level of 0.096 micrograms per liter.  There are no restrictions on lake use for health reasons at present.

Date: July 9, 2010
Location: Burien streets that drain to Miller and Walker Creeks
Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward
Observation: The storm drains associated with our streets serve as extensions of the stream system.  The metal grates embedded in the pavement are a gateway for stormwater runoff to enter the streams.  Unlike the sewage in the sanitary sewer, this runoff is not cleaned or  treated before it reaches the streams.    For this reason, we say that regardless of where you are, Logo that reads "Puget Sound Starts Here"

Consequently, we need to increase awareness that the health of our streams and Puget Sound depends on reducing pollution in storm water runoff.  To help with this effort, six students from the Waskowitz High School summer session program marked storm drains today.  They used spray paint and stencils to paint "Dump No Waste -- Drains to Stream" next to 50 storm drain catch basins on Ambaum Blvd. near S.W. 160th St. and 8th Ave. S. at S. 188th in Burien.  Several storm drains received an alternative treatment using plastic markers glued to the pavement.

The 6-week Waskowitz summer program is a partnership between Highline School District and King County Work Training's "Stay In School" program.  Students spend the summer outdoors doing service projects, introductory work training, and outdoor challenges.  They can earn school credit in Outdoor Leadership and Physical Education.  Complementing their work marking storm drains, the students also worked to remove invasive English ivy from mature trees along Miller Creek and controlled weeds and placed mulch around recently-planted native trees and shrubs along Miller Creek.

The next time you see these markings, take a moment to think about ways you can reduce stormwater pollution -- there are lots of good ideas at the Puget Sound Starts Here website.

Photo of two teenagers in safety vests spray painting a stencil on pavement next to a storm drain
Students Chris and Val use spray paint and a stencil to mark a storm drain.  Water entering this drain flows to Miller Creek and Puget Sound -- without being treated.

Photo of nine people in safety vests holding plastic stencils and spray paint next to a storm drain
The storm drain marking crew celebrates the end of their work on Burien streets on a hot July 9.

Date: June 29, 2010
Location: Walker Creek at the Normandy Park Swim Club in Normandy Park
Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward
Observation: To underscore the May 2 post, effective land and water stewardship requires periodic effort.  The cool, wet spring allowed the weeds to grow as well as the native trees and shrubs.  Normandy Park Swim Club members volunteered on June 29 and 30 and July 8 to beat back the weeds and help their native plants thrive.  Some trees and shrubs had been completely covered by morning glory (bindweed) and sticky grass in less than two months!  Now that they're uncovered, they'll benefit from the strong summer sun.

Photo of woman and two children weeding around plants next to stream
Regular Swim Club volunteer Lorraine works with younger swim club members on June 29 to weed around trees and shrubs planted along Walker Creek by the Club last fall.

Date: May 2, 2010
Location: Walker Creek at the Normandy Park Swim Club in Normandy Park
Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward
Observation: Stewarding our streams is not a one-time project.  Starting a stream restoration project begins a commitment to long-term care of our land and water.  The Normandy Park Swim Club exemplifies this commitment and today conducted their first maintenance of the plants they planted along Walker Creek last October.  As part of their spring prep of the pool, a dozen volunteers worked with me to create rings of coarse woody mulch around each tree and shrub planted last fall.  The mulch helps suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.  Eventually the mulch breaks down, providing more organic matter to the soil.  We also weeded Himalayan blackberry and other weeds that would compete with the native plants.  This care will nurture a strong and diverse plant community along what used to be just a grass-lined stream.  The stream, its fish, and the kids who love to play along it will be the beneficiaries of this stewardship.

Photo of people carrying buckets next to a stream
Volunteers hustled to spread many cubic yards of woody mulch around trees and shrubs along Walker Creek at the Swim Club on May 2.  Each tree and shrub planted last October is marked with an orange flag to make them easy to find when the weeds get high.

Photo of trees and shrubs with rings of mulch next to a small stream
This view looking upstream shows shrubs planted last year surrounded by mulch rings created on May 2.  Harder to see are Sitka willow stakes installed on each bank.  Each of the stakes has tender shoots and leaves that should continue to grow well in this sunny, wet setting.  In just a few years, much of the stream will be well-shaded by the new plants.

Date: April 21, 2010
Location: Walker Creek at the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park
Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward
Observation: Another rite of spring in salmon country is the annual release of coho salmon by schoolchildren participating in the Salmon in the Classroom program sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Today it was the turn for three classes at Marvista Elementary in Normandy Park to release the fish that they had been caring for in a chilled aquarium in the classroom for the last three months.  The kids were bused to the Cove where Trout Unlimited volunteers gave each a cup with a few coho salmon.  Due to high flows in Walker Creek from heavy rain, the kids released most of the salmon into the more protected duck pond where they will find food and shelter for the next year of freshwater rearing.  Afterward, the students returned to school where Trout Unlimited volunteer Andy Batcho and I talked with them about the future of "their fish" and how the kids can help keep the water in the streams and Puget Sound clean and healthy.  As usual when talking with kids, their knowledge of and enthusiasm for salmon and our lands and waters were impressive and inspiring.  Thanks go to teacher Julie Sutherland for overseeing care of the aquarium and Trout Unlimited volunteer John Muramatsu who helps the school with obtaining the fish and managing the aquarium.

Photo of children holding cups in the water on the bank of a pond
Trout Unlimited's John Muramatsu coaches Marvista students on how to gently introduce their coho fry to the duck pond at the Cove on a rainy April 21.

Photo of two men pointing at a map in front of seated children
Andy Batcho (l) and Dennis Clark talk to the students at Marvista Elementary after the kids finished outplanting coho salmon from their fish tank into Walker Creek on April 21.

Date: March 20, 2010
Location: Walker Creek at the Walker Preserve in Normandy Park
Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward
Observation: Eight volunteers welcomed the first day of spring by removing invasive English ivy and English holly from the Walker Perserve in Normandy Park.  This work continued efforts initiated in October 2008 and continued in 2009.  One of the treats of working this early in the year was seeing many trillium in bloom and a lush carpet of bleeding heart, both of which also can enliven a yard that relies on native plants.  The volunteers also noticed salmon fry darting about in Walker Creek in the reach restored last August.  Thanks to volunteers Kevin Alexander, Jim Burrows, Ron Ebbers, Deb and Nikki Macias, Jean Spohn, and Barb and Darrell Williams for their good work.

Photo of people pulling ivy plants out of the ground in a forest
The volunteers work on removing more ivy from the forest floor on March 20 .  Volunteers in previous years removed ivy from all the trees.

Photo of man using tool to remove a small bush in a forest
Volunteer Ron Ebbers uses a weed wrench to remove a small but tenacious English holly plant on March 20.  English holly must be removed roots and all or it will spring right back up.

Date: March 13, 2010
Location: Walker Creek at the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park
Source: Andy Batcho 
Observation: At the Stewards of the Cove work party on Saturday, March 13, I noticed 8 to 10 salmon fry in Walker Creek (in front of the Cove Building). I checked several places in that section of stream and found fry in nearly every section. Several others saw them also, Elaine & Tony Cassarino, Doug Osterman to name a few.  The fry were about 1” to 1-1/4” long.  Not sure if they were planted or wild coho or out migrating chum fry.  I check the stream quite often & I had not seen fry in this area until last Saturday.

Tip from Basin Steward Dennis Clark: To tell coho and chum fry apart, look for the "parr marks," vertical bands on the side of the fish.  On chum, the parr marks are above the "lateral line" only.  The lateral line is a visible line that runs from the middle of the head to the middle of the tail on each side of the fish.  With coho, the parr marks are located both above and below the "lateral line."  Chum also have a blue-green color and stand out a bit more than coho.  Of course, with such small, quick little fish, discerning these differences is no small task!

Date: January 23, 2010
Location: Southwest Suburban Sewer District plant (external link) in Normandy Park
Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward
Observation: Today was an exciting day for about 20 volunteers from Trout Unlimited - Duwamish/Green Chapter and the broader community.  It was also an exciting day for tens of thousands of coho salmon that found a new home in Miller and Walker Creeks! Like last year, coho salmon eggs had been transferred in December from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery on Soos Creek to the Trout Unlimited hatchery on the grounds of the sewer plant in Normandy Park.  For several weeks, trays of eggs were constantly bathed in 11 degree C (52 degree F) well water.  Gradually the eggs developed into alevins and "buttoned up" by absorbing their yolk sacks.  Just when they finished "buttoning up" and were ready to begin finding their own food, they were outplanted to streams throughout the Highline area.

Over 100,000 fish were outplanted to various locations in Miller/Walker/Sequoia Creeks, Des Moines Creek, and Salmon Creek.  Outplanting these salmon helps compensate for the fact that few adult coho salmon are able to successfully spawn in our urban creeks.  (See posts from 2009 on pre-spawn mortality.)

Not many of the outplanted fish will survive -- that's just the way nature works when it comes to young salmon.  The initial large numbers, however, mean some will survive their first 16 months in our streams and ponds.  Those that do survive the inital freshwater phase of their lives will head out to Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean sometime in 2011.  And of those, a small percentage will survive to return to the creeks in 2013 or 2014.

The coho outplanting program is a partnership between the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (external link) and Trout Unlimited.  Volunteers such as Russ Welker and John Muramatsu visit the hatchery every day to pluck diseased eggs and fry from the trays to ensure the health of the others.  The project also is supported by the Southwest Suburban Sewer District (external link), which provides space for the hatchery building and clean well water.

The ultimate success of the program depends on members of the community who improve water quality and habitat in the streams so that the outplanted fish survive in ever higher numbers.  Remember, Puget Sound Starts Here!

To see more photos of the January 23 coho outplanting, see Michael Brunk's story and slide show at the B-Town Blog (external link).

Photo of two men pulling a tray from a rack.  The tray contains small fish.
Trout Unlimited volunteers Ron DeSilva (l) and Russ Welker pull trays containing thousands of baby coho salmon from the incubator.  Since December, the trays of eyed-eggs from the Soos Creek hatchery have been bathed in 11 degree C well water.

Photo of an ice chest filled with water and thousands of small salmon fry
Ice chests are used to transport the fish to their new home in Highline streams. The water is a mix of well water and water from nearby Miller Creek. This mix helps the fish gradually acclimate to their new home. The hose is for an aerator (not visible) that keeps the water oxygenated during the 15-30 minutes required to transport the fish.

Photo of man loading ice chest into backseat of car
Once the fish are in the ice chest, the volunteers move quickly to load them up for the second and final automobile journey of their lives.  (The first trip by car was from the Soos Creek hatchery to the incubation hatchery on Miller Creek in Normandy Park.)

Photo of man emptying water and small fish from an ice chest into a stream
For the final step of the outplant, the fish are gently introduced into the stream.  Here volunteer Dave Bouta begins to pour the last few hundred reluctant coho out of an ice chest into Miller Creek at S. 144th St. in Burien.  This location is at the upstream end of one of the recent stewardship projects on the creek so those fish that survive to summer should find good rearing conditions here.

Stewardship of the Miller/Walker Creeks basin is jointly funded by the City of Burien, City of Normandy Park, City of SeaTac, King County, and the Port of Seattle. On behalf of the partners, this page is proudly hosted by King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks - Water and Land Resources Division.