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Tukwila's Fish Habitat  

Report a poacher to the Fish & Wildlife Hot line at

Over the last 120 years, salmon habitat within the Green/Duwamish watershed has been seriously degraded due to the industrial and urban modernization of the region. Tributaries to the river within the City of Tukwila such as Riverton, Southgate, and Gilliam Creeks, have also been adversely impacted, and for the most part, are missing much of the critical habitat elements needed by salmon.

Sections within each of these tributaries have been channelized and oriented to convey storm flows. They are deficient in quality spawning and overwintering habitat, and have little natural diversity left. Both the Riverton and Gilliam Creek outfalls to the Duwamish are capped by large flap gates, which may significantly discourage juvenile recruitment and adult returns.

Another factor which at times limits the suitability of a these drainages for salmon is the annual variation in water quality. Of particular concern are winter storm flows. Currently, storm flows create tremendously turbid (muddy water) conditions within each system. Turbidity, along with the sediment that is transported and deposited, can cover important spawning gravels and reduce the survival of naturally spawned salmon eggs. Storm runoff may also contain roadway toxins such as oil, antifreeze, and heavy metals which also can impact the health of the population. Salmon, like many other aquatic animals, have fairly low tolerances to these conditions.

♦  Learn more about salmon habitat recovery in the Green/Duwamish Watershed

What Is Being Done

Recently, the City of Tukwila in conjunction with the Boeing Company, began a salmon habitat restoration project within the Riverton Creek Drainage. This habitat restoration project is only the first step in a lengthy process which will, in a few short years, augment the amount of useable habitat and increase the number of salmon naturally occurring within this drainage.

The primary objective of this project is to provide quality spawning and overwintering habitat for trout and salmon and address instances of localized flooding. This will involve the placement of instream habitat structures that will limit the transport of sediments and increase instream characteristics and complexity. In addition, the project will remove some invasive plant species and re-vegetate the project area with selected streamside plant species.

What Salmon Need

Salmon require many things from their stream, including suitable water quality, cool water temperatures, and adequate habitat characteristics. Poor water quality and warm water (temperatures above 60 oF), may prevent salmon from utilizing potential habitat. In turn, habitat characteristics are important to salmon as well because they provide salmon with the means to find food and shelter from predators. Without these two important amenities, the survival and existence of salmon is at significant risk.

Riverton, Southgate and Gilliam Drainage Basins:

Much of the rain runoff, surface water, and groundwater within each basin flows into the creeks. If your home or business is in one of these basins, you can make a big difference in the long term health and vitality of this resource. Here's how!

Tips for a Healthier Stream

  • Pesticides and herbicides create problems when they enter streams. Some chemicals may stay active for a long time and accumulate in the environment. Others can kill desirable insects, animals and plants. Chemical and organic fertilizers, can cause excess plant and algae growth when they enter small drainages and can reduce dissolved oxygen levels vital to the survival of aquatic life and fish populations.

    If you need to use pesticides or herbicides, read and follow the directions carefully. Applying more chemicals than directed may do more harm than good. Never spray near ditches, street gutters, streams or lakes. Spray on calm days when it's not too hot, and avoid spraying before or during a rain shower. Spray only where and when you can actually see the pest or the disease and only when the chemical is said to be most effective.
  • Encourage insect-eating birds and "friendly bugs" in your yard rather than relying on pesticides. Attract birds by providing tree cover, food during the winter months, and protection from cats. Spiders, ladybugs, and lacewings all eat pest insects. Learn to recognize them and enjoy their natural abilities.
  • Care for your plants. Healthy plants, when cared for properly, are more resistant to pests and require fewer chemical "medicines" and fertilizers.
  • Streets and driveways are also sources of water pollution. Oil leaks from cars, leaking antifreeze and lead from car exhaust contribute large volumes of pollutants to streams every year. These compounds are toxic to fish, but with a little preventative maintenance and a keen eye, these sources can be significantly reduced.
  • Keep your stream shaded. Trees and bushes on stream banks will: 1) shade the water, helping to keep it cool for fish in the summer. 2) limit stream bank erosion and collapse. 3) provide wildlife habitat and creates a food source for fish (more insects). 4) provide escape cover and shelter for fish, and 5) provide plant material such as leaves which fall into the stream break down over time releasing important nutrients and proteins, a vital part of the food chain.
  • Keep livestock away from streams. Animal wastes degrade water quality and their hooves can denude stream banks causing erosion and bank failure.
  • Keep litter out of streams. This includes plastic bags, grass clippings, old appliances, tires, shopping carts, etc. Large blocking objects can alter the path of a stream which will encourage erosion and degrade habitat.
  • Stream beautification projects. Although well intended, any non-State permitted alterations you make to you section of stream could destroy salmon spawning beds (incubating eggs), create erosion, degrade stream habitat, or create an impassable barrier to fish migration.

Prior to taking action, please contact the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for advice and permission to work in your stream.


Contact Information:

Public Works

6300 Southcenter Blvd.,
Tukwila, WA 98188

Phone: 206 433-0179
Fax: 206 431-3665

Email the Public Works Dept.