After 32 years of operating the Willow Creek Fish Hatchery for the City of Edmonds, the Edmonds chapter of Trout Unlimited is turning it over to Sound Salmon Solutions.
In operation since 1985, the hatchery releases about 100,000 salmon fry each year into Western Washington rivers, some right here in Edmonds (see My Edmonds News article “Students release buckets of baby Coho salmon into Edmonds streams”). It also provides a wealth of education programs to the community on salmon, maintaining healthy fish habitat, and the importance of protecting wetlands.
Originally known as the Stilly Snohomish Fisheries Enhancement Task Force, Lake Stevens-based Sound Salmon Solutions is one of 14 Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups (RFEGs) chartered in 1990 by the Washington State Legislature. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Sound Salmon Solutions’ mission is to support salmon recovery in the Stillaguamish, Snohomish and South Island County watersheds by connecting people to their watersheds through interactive education, hands-on stewardship and state-of-the-art habitat restoration.
“It’s been great working with our local Trout Unlimited chapter over the years,” said Edmonds Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite. “They planned and helped build the hatchery and education center back in 1985, and at the time contracted with the City of Edmonds to operate it under a 10-year contract. We’ve been renewing the contract ever since.”
When the contract came up for renewal again in 2014 Trout Unlimited, citing its aging membership, asked that the city look at other options to reduce its role in the endeavor. “Running the hatchery and education center is a very physical and time-consuming job,” added Hite, “and while Trout Unlimited has done a great job, we agreed that it was time to look ahead and shift the day-to-day running of the facility to another operator.”
Hite and her staff reviewed several potential operators, talked with representatives of the Tribes, and visited the Sound Salmon Solutions Whatcom Creek hatchery. Ultimately, the decision was made to begin transitioning the Willow Creek Hatchery and Education Center operations to the Lake Stevens-based group.
“Most important to us was Sound Salmon Solutions’ education programs,” said Hite. “While the Willow Creek Hatchery raises and releases thousands of salmon each year, for the City of Edmonds, the key component of its mission is education.”
As an example, Sound Salmon Solutions acquired grant money from the Rose Foundation to help fund an effort by Edmonds-Wooddway High School’s Students Saving Salmon club to conduct water quality monitoring and plant 320 native shrubs at four residences long Shell Creek.
According to Hite, the transition began in February and is now complete. “While our local Trout Unlimited chapter is no longer in the driver’s seat, they’re still very much in the game,” she added. “Many members will continue as volunteers, providing education and scientific expertise.”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel