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

More in Local News

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times Carol Johnston has watched this Pacific madrone grow for the past 14 years. It is slated to be removed during McDonald’s upcoming renovation in early February.
Madrone tree to make way for bigger McDonald’s in Oak Harbor

Despite being named a Tree City USA, the city has no special protection in place for the native tree.

Democrats in the Washington State House are proposing to pay for transportation improvements partly by raising the gas tax by 18 cents. (Andrea Brown / Herald file)
Gas tax increase part of Dems’ massive transportation package

An 18-cent gas tax hike and a fee on carbon emissions would raise $25.8 billion for new roads and more.

Navy seeks to conduct SEAL training in Whidbey, Camano parks

The deadline to register to participate in public comment is 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 22.

Driver jumps from truck in Lynnwood, leaving son to crash

The boy was taken to a local hospital with minor scrapes. His father is in the Snohomish County Jail.

Light rail work to close northbound I-5 in Mountlake Terrace

The overnight closures will happen late Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Jill Johnson (left) and Greg Banks
State’s vaccine schedule draws criticism from Island County

Gov. Jay Inslee’s new plan for vaccinations didn’t include a change for disabled people.

Grant program reopens for businesses suffering amid pandemic

Local businesses that haven’t applied to Snohomish County’s “R3” program can do so until Feb. 2.

The strip-mall site (bottom) where Trent Development hopes to build 350 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2020 in Lynnwood, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Hundreds more apartments planned around Lynnwood light rail

In a new proposal, a developer envisions 350 units, two buildings of at least seven stories, a one-acre courtyard and a dog spa.

Most Read