Snohomish County’s freshwater mussel die-off worries stream advocates

Freshwater mussel populations are in steep decline in streams in urban Snohomish County, experts say.

Mussels are mostly stationary and sift through water for food, a filtering process that pulls pollutants from the water.

However, they can only filter out so much, said Ardent Thomas, a University of Washington researcher form the School of Forest Resources.

“Between 2002 and 2007 there was a 93 percent die-off of fresh water mussels in Bear Creek downstream from Paradise Lake,” he said.

Similar die-offs are happening in other heavily urbanized streams, he said.

That decline is an indication that salmon, aquatic insects and other species dependent on healthy waterways also could be in trouble, said Dick Schaetzel, a past president of Water Tenders, a nonprofit group working to restore and monitor Bear Creek, which flows from Snohomish County to the Sammamish River and Lake Washington.

“They’re kind of like the canary in the coal mine in streams around here,” Schaetzel said.

If they’re in a stream, it’s a very healthy stream. If they’re gone, everything is dying, he said.

Schaetzel is scheduled to give a talk about the importance of freshwater mussels at 7 tonight at the Everett-based Adopt-a-Stream Foundation at the Northwest Stream Center, 600 128th St. SE, Everett.

“To date, nobody really knows what is causing this decline,” Schaetzel said. He said its likely a number of factors, including elevated pollution levels, warming stream temperatures and too much sediment in the streams.

The Adopt-a-Stream Foundation invited Schaetzel to spread the word on what is a worsening problem, said Tom Murdoch, the group’s executive director.

“This is an opportunity for people to lean more about the aquatic life in local streams,” Murdoch said. “Freshwater mussels are an integral part of stream ecosystems. And right now they’re in trouble.”

The role mussels play in filtering pollutants out of the water shouldn’t be overlooked, he said.

“They’re always sucking in water,” Murdoch said. “They’re filter feeders. They’re the kidneys of streams.”

Reporter Lukas Velush: 425-339-3449 or lvelush@heraldnet.com.

Discover mussels

A lecture on freshwater mussels of the Pacific Northwest is scheduled for 7 to 8:30 p.m. today at the Northwest Stream Center, 600 128th St. SE, Everett.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A car breaks and waits for traffic to pass before turning onto 123rd Avenue on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Can roundabouts, lower speed limit make 84th Street NE safer?

Maybe, but transportation and disability advocates want design features to make crossing safe.

Two brother bear cubs, burned in a fire last summer, were recently reunited at PAWS in Lynnwood. (PAWS) 20211129
Bear cubs, burned in wildfires, reunited in viral video in Lynnwood

The brother cubs are being treated at PAWS Wildlife Center. They were injured in a wildfire near Lake Chelan.

Everett officials have questions about a 125-room hotel shelter

City Council members say they weren’t aware of the county’s proposal until it made headlines.

A fatal crash prompted closure of West Mukilteo Boulevard between Forest Park and Dogwood Drive Friday afternoon. (Everett Police Department) 20211126
2 identified in deadly T-bone crash in Everett

Otila Retel Azanedo de Jones, 67, and William Jones, 85, died at the scene.

Reagan Dunn to take on U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier in 8th District

The Republican is challenging incumbent Democrat Kim Schrier in a district which could include a slice of Snohomish County.

A man died after he was found with gunshot wounds Saturday in downtown Everett. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)
Man dead after shooting in downtown Everett

The man, believed to be in his 40s, was found near California Street and Rockefeller Avenue.

Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney, commander of Puget Sound-based Carrier Strike Group 11, in Bremerton on Nov. 23, 2021. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Justin McTaggart)
From Everett, this rear admiral commands a Navy strike group

Christopher Sweeney leads Carrier Strike Group 11, a force of aircraft and ships stretching from here to San Diego.

Charges: Everett ID thief tried to buy wheels, speakers, more

The man, 33, was charged this week with 10 counts of identity theft in Snohomish County Superior Court.

Bradley Woolard (U.S. Attorney's Office)
Arlington-area man who led fentanyl ring gets 20 years

When Bradley Woolard’s home was raided in 2018, authorities found more than 12,000 fentanyl pills.

Most Read