A train passes by workers building the pedestrian bridge on the hillside at Grand Avenue Park in 2018 in Everett. (Lizz Giordano / Herald file)

A train passes by workers building the pedestrian bridge on the hillside at Grand Avenue Park in 2018 in Everett. (Lizz Giordano / Herald file)

Changes coming for coastal train tracks that endanger salmon

A huge concentration of stream crossings essential to baby chinook salmon are in Snohomish County.

EDMONDS — Much like its human residents, Snohomish County’s chinook salmon are trying to navigate the 73 miles of BNSF railway tracks trimming Puget Sound to access the water.

For young fish, a natural nursery habitat at the spot where streams meet the sound is often blocked by pipes that route waterflow under the tracks.

A collection of state and federal agencies just wrapped up a year-long effort to prioritize nearly 200 streams and determine where projects to increase fish access would have the most bang for their buck.

Of the 74 stream crossing sites in Snohomish County, six are considered a high priority. They include spots at Meadowdale Park, Japanese Gulch and Boeing Creek.

Most of the railway along Puget Sound was built in the 1890s to early 1900s, said ecologist Phil Bloch, who helped manage the project.

Of the 17 stream crossings listed as a high priority for restoration projects in the greater Puget Sound six are in Snohomish County. (Phil Bloch)

Of the 17 stream crossings listed as a high priority for restoration projects in the greater Puget Sound six are in Snohomish County. (Phil Bloch)

It was originally constructed with trestles, but they converted to piped crossings sometime before World War II.

Chinook are a large salmon that spawn in rivers, Bloch said. Babies hatch in the gravel then make their way toward the Sound. After they arrive, recent research shows they often duck back into stream habitats while they grow and get ready to take on the marine environment.

“The fish are telling us ‘these are habitats we like,’ and we’re trying to get them back to these habitats,” Bloch said.

Researchers looked at the quality of habitat at stream crossings and the likelihood juvenile chinook will use it. They grouped sites into tiers, with 17 sites from the greater Puget Sound listed as high priority. Of those, six are in Snohomish County.

“That’s a big concentration,” project manager Paul Schlenger said.

The railway is willing to take the results and invest in changes, Bloch said.

Meadowdale Beach Park from a coastline tour in September. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Meadowdale Beach Park from a coastline tour in September. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

The ranking system will allow the company to prioritize which stream crossings it’ll focus on.

“We want to be good stewards of the environment and data from studies like these helps with those efforts,” company spokesperson Courtney Wallace said.

The project was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and administered by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, with in-kind support from the Tulalip Tribes.

Moving forward, BNSF can address issues at some of the sites through maintenance. Other crossings will require standalone projects with outside funding.

Organizations could also use the sites for mitigation credit.

“This has all been sort of focused toward implementation,” Schlenger said. “We want to make sure it leads to actually changing some things and improving the habitat.”

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; jgsanders@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

An emergency overdose kit with naloxone located next to an emergency defibrillator at Mountain View student housing at Everett Community College on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
To combat fentanyl, Snohomish County trickles out cash to recovery groups

The latest dispersal, $77,800 in total, is a wafer-thin slice of the state’s $1.1 billion in opioid lawsuit settlements.

Deputy prosecutors Bob Langbehn and Melissa Samp speak during the new trial of Jamel Alexander on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Second trial begins for man accused of stomping Everett woman to death

In 2021, a jury found Jamel Alexander guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Shawna Brune. An appellate court overturned his conviction.

Lynnwood
New Jersey company acquires Lynnwood Land Rover dealership

Land Rover Seattle, now Land Rover Lynnwood, has been purchased by Holman, a 100-year-old company.

Dave Calhoun, center, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Jan. 24. (Samuel Corum / Bloomberg)
Boeing fired lobbying firm that helped it navigate 737 Max crashes

Amid congressional hearings on Boeing’s “broken safety culture,” the company has severed ties with one of D.C.’s most powerful firms.

Authorities found King County woman Jane Tang who was missing since March 2 near Heather Lake. (Family photo)
Body of missing woman recovered near Heather Lake

Jane Tang, 61, told family she was going to a state park last month. Search teams found her body weeks later.

Deborah Wade (photo provided by Everett Public Schools)
‘We are heartbroken’: Everett teacher died after driving off Tulalip road

Deborah Wade “saw the world and found beauty in people,” according to her obituary. She was 56.

Snohomish City Hall on Friday, April 12, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish may sell off old City Hall, water treatment plant, more

That’s because, as soon as 2027, Snohomish City Hall and the police and public works departments could move to a brand-new campus.

Lewis the cat weaves his way through a row of participants during Kitten Yoga at the Everett Animal Shelter on Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Downward cat? At kitten yoga in Everett, it’s all paw-sitive vibes

It wasn’t a stretch for furry felines to distract participants. Some cats left with new families — including a reporter.

FILE - In this Friday, March 31, 2017, file photo, Boeing employees walk the new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner down towards the delivery ramp area at the company's facility in South Carolina after conducting its first test flight at Charleston International Airport in North Charleston, S.C. Federal safety officials aren't ready to give back authority for approving new planes to Boeing when it comes to the large 787 jet, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. The plane has been plagued by production flaws for more than a year.(AP Photo/Mic Smith, File)
Boeing pushes back on Everett whistleblower’s allegations

Two Boeing engineering executives on Monday described in detail how panels are fitted together, particularly on the 787 Dreamliner.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.