Habitat restoration underway along Green River to help salmon, orcas

·2 min read

An effort to restore habitats along the Green River is underway to help cool down the river and allow for Chinook salmon to better survive.

People gathered along the Green River in Tukwila on Saturday, during the first weekend of “Orca Action Month.” It’s work that will help our Southern Residents because more salmon means more food for the orcas.

“They are the Pacific Northwest,” said Whitney Neugebauer, director of group Whale Scout.

But the number of these orcas keep dwindling. The count of Southern Residents is about 75 right now, possibly less. While a new female calf was born recently, scientists are still working to count if any died over the winter.

“We’re doing worse than a few years ago. In the mid 90′s we were up around 100,” said Dr. David Bain, the chief scientist with Orca Conservancy.

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In this habitat restoration project, the Green River Coalition and volunteers have planted native trees like evergreens, and cleared out invasive species like blackberries.

“It is all interconnected. What we do here helps keep the river cool for salmon and it also does help buffer storm water and other toxins that could be running off our roads and parking lots,” Neugebauer said.

It’s not easy to restore natural habitat — weeds are very insistent.

But volunteers -- including Rucky, the Seattle Seawolves rugby team mascot -- were out by the river, pulling blackberry shoots to help protect the baby trees that were planted in the fall.

Getting key dams removed from rivers or building salmon passages through them is a big part of it, too. There has been major progress on that front.

“I do think the tide is turning when it comes to dams. People call it the era of dam removal,” Neugebauer said.

But organizers say work like the restoration project is just as important.

“The idea is, it all fits together. The multi-million dollar projects when they go in, they’re great. But being able to stitch that habitat together and have it more consistent along the entire river is what’s really needed,” said Greg Wingard, cofounder, president of Green River Coalition.

If you want to help, people can certainly volunteer. But the Orca Conservancy says easy changes you can make would be driving less and avoid putting chemicals on your lawn, because both tire dust and chemical runoff harm salmon.

“What is the pacific northwest without orcas and salmon, right?” Neugebauer said.