Puget Sound Coastal Streamkeepers

This unique stream survey program was founded by the Rose Foundation in partnership with the Tulalip Tribes to help better understand these local streams and determine the ecological status as well as the form and function for salmonid species in the area.

As you can see by examining this Puget Sound Basin map produced by the U.S. Geological Survey, there are several major rivers that flow into the Sound.

What the map above does does not show is the thousands of small streams that flow directly into Puget Sound. By looking at the aerial photo between Everett WA and Edmonds WA you will see several “ribbons of green” leading to Puget Sound surrounded by dense development and “Puget Sound view properties.”
A small stream drains through most of these “ribbons of green” into the Sound independent of the major river watersheds shown in the map above.
Each of these streams carries pollutants from their surrounding watersheds to Puget Sound.

Take a closer look at the watersheds in the the small coastal community of Mukilteo in the map below. It reveals 12 streams flowing directly to Puget Sound. Imagine how many more coastal creeks flow directly into Puget Sound!!
Sadly, the ecological health of most coastal streams flowing into Puget Sound has not been checked in several decades. In 2011, the Adopt A Stream Foundation initiated a unique research program. Our goal was to obtain permission from private landowners to examine the ecological health of their portion of the stream and to identify opportunities to improve fish and wildlife habitat and/or reduce water pollution…and to recruit watershed residents to become stewards of their watersheds: Puget Sound Coastal Streamkeepers.

Our “Stream Team” used stream survey protocols established by the EPA’s Visual Based Rapid Bio-Assessment Protocols. When a problem is located, Adopt A Stream Foundation ecologists and technicians offer to develop plans to solve problems discovered and to provide technical assistance to solve problems. Volunteers from the watershed are also recruited to provide assistance to get the job done.

Thanks to support from the Russell Family Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, seven Puget Sound Coastal Streams were examined between 2011 and 2013.

During that timeframe, many private landowners became Streamkeepers. We also developed several partners including: Snohomish County Parks and Recreation and Snohomish County Surface Water Management; the cities of Everett, Mukilteo, and Edmonds; Edmonds Backyard Wildlife, Edmonds Community College; Earth Corps; and the Snohomish Conservation District.

So far, 200 trees have been planted next to Lunds Gulch Creek and 40 log fish habitat structures installed in that stream.

In addition, we are developing recommendations on how to improve the ecological health of for local governments that make land use decisions around the coastal steams that we survey. Those recommendations include:

•Require all new development in surrounding watersheds to be constructed using low impact design techniques, and to

•Create a Salmon and Trout Relief Fund that will provide small grants and technical assistance to help landowners reduce their stormwater runoff.

You may enjoy taking a virtual tour of the Puget Sound Coastal Streams we surveyed using EPA’s Rapid Bio-Assessment Protocols:


Support for this effort is provided by the Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund, a grantmaking fund created by the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and administered by the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment.

In addition, during 2013, the Tulalip Tribes requested that the Adopt A Stream Foundation conduct fish surveys on 20 streams located between Everett and Edmonds as part their study called: Juvenile Chinook Salmon Rearing in Small Non-natal streams Draining into the Whidbey Basin. Between April and June of 2013 Adopt A Stream Foundation ecologists and technicians and staff from the Tulalip Tribes electro-shocked the lower 200 meters of the following streams locating the fish species listed next to each:

Creeks Surveyed Fish Species Found

Pigeon Creek I: Chinook, Steelhead, Coho, Cutthroat, Chum

Pigeon Creek II: Chinook (intertidal only)

Seahurst -Glenhaven Creek: none found

Glenwood Creek: Chinook (intertidal only), Steelhead, Coho, Cutthroat, Chum

Phillips Creek: none found

Merrill & Ring Creek: Chinook, Steelhead, Coho, Cutthroat, Chum

Narbeck Creek: Chinook (intertidal), Steelhead, Coho

Powder Mil Gulch Creek: Coho, Cutthroat, Chum

Edgewater Creek: Chinook (intertidal only), Cutthroat, Chum

Japanese Gulch Creek: Coho, Cutthroat, Chum

Unnamed Creek Near Lighthouse Park: none found

Unnamed Creek in Mukilteo: none found

Big Gulch Creek: Chinook, Coho, Cutthroat, Chum

Upper Chennault Creek in Mukilteo: none found

Lower Chennault Creek in Mukilteo: none found

Unnamed Creek near Shipwreck Pt: none found

Picnic Point Creek: Chinook, Cutthroat, Chum

Lunds Gulch Creek: Chinook, Coho, Cutthroat, Chum

Fruitdale Creek: Coho (intertidal only), Cutthroat

Shell: Coho, Cutthroat

This study is very significant. Generally, non-natal Puget Sound Chinook Salmon, listed as a Threatened Species, use coastal creeks as rearing habitat and other species of salmonid use these creeks for both spawning and rearing when they have access to those streams. For example, Pigeon Creek I is used by Chinook, Steelhead, Coho, Cutthroat, and Chum. However, due to a complete barrier to fish migration where Pigeon Creek II flows under the Burlington Northern Railroad Tracks, no fish were found in the lower 200 meters of that stream.
The Puget Sound creeks that were subjects of the Puget Sound Coastal Streamkeepers effort are in poor condition. However, in spite of human induced degradation, most still support salmon and trout. Several actions need to taken to enhance these streams.

The technically easy steps include removing manmade barriers to fish migration. More complex measures also need to be taken including:
•Local governments with land use decision making authority should require all new development in the watersheds surrounding these streams should require those developments to be designed using low impact techniques
•Local governments should establish Salmon and Trout Relief Funds that provide owners of developed properties small grants and technical assistance to reduce their stormwater runoff.
•Local governments should establish Transfer of Development Rights Programs benefitting owners of large tracts of undeveloped properties
•Local governments sharing watersheds should coordinate land use policies and regulations and work together to solve watershed-wide problems.