SAN JUAN COUNTY, WA. October 19, 2022 – San Juan County is thrilled to report the first salmon of the year are making their way to Cascade Creek on Orcas Island - the last known wild salmon run in the San Juans. This exciting news is made possible, in part, by donations of flow from both Olga Water Users and Rosario Resort.
For the second time in several years, voluntary donations of critical flow into Cascade Creek helped enable salmon spawning. On October 17th a temporary donation of flow from Rosario Resort was added to a recent donation from Olga Water Users, Inc, bringing total donated stream flow to 1.50 cubic feet per second. This effort was led by Orcas-based biologist Jenny De Groot who, on behalf of the Conservation Land Bank, has monitored native fish populations in lower Cascade Creek at Coho Preserve since 2016. During that time, both Coastal Cutthroat trout and the small Coho Salmon run have faced human-caused spawning disruptions including extreme low flow and in-stream disturbance.
Adult Coho salmon typically enter island streams in the fall to spawn and most juveniles remain in freshwater for a year or more before going to sea for one to two years. Whether for trout or salmon, year-round flow in the creek is essential. But like many rivers and streams in the West, Cascade Creek’s flow is legally overallocated. While not typically an issue during rainy periods, diversions of flow during dry periods can leave little or no water for fish. Fortunately, Washington’s Trust Water Rights Program offers water right holders the opportunity to donate all or part of their water rights temporarily and then to reclaim those rights without penalty. Water right holders may also elect to donate or sell water rights to the Trust Program.
In 2020 the Conservation Land Bank secured $500,000 in grant funds from the Department of Ecology and the Recreation and Conservation Office to support permanent flow restoration in Cascade Creek. These grant funds remain available, and the Land Bank welcomes opportunities for collaboration with willing water rights holders and private landowners to help ensure the long-term viability of native fish populations in San Juan County.
Video of Coho salmon jumping logs courtesy of Sandy Taylor: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/I-3s2h9WFJY
Photo above courtesy of Jenny De Groot
Media Contact: Tanja Williamson, 360-378-4402, email@example.com
About San Juan County’s Conservation Land Bank
San Juan County’s Conservation Land Bank, funded by a 1% real estate excise tax paid by purchasers of property at closing, acquires and preserves areas in the county that have environmental, agricultural, aesthetic, cultural, scientific, historic, scenic, or low-intensity recreational value. The department offices are located at 328 Caines Street, Friday Harbor, WA 98250. For more information about San Juan County’s Conservation Land Bank, visit www.sjclandbank.org.