Glendale Creek ready for salmon

Where a winter storm and floods left an impassable washout in 1997, a new culvert and rebuilt stream bed in the Glendale Creek are making the migration of wild and hatchery salmon possible. - Matt Johnson
Where a winter storm and floods left an impassable washout in 1997, a new culvert and rebuilt stream bed in the Glendale Creek are making the migration of wild and hatchery salmon possible.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

For the first time in more than 40 years, salmon will be able to swim the entire length of Glendale Creek this fall.

As migrating salmon were hitting fishermen’s lines on South Whidbey beaches, Mount Vernon subcontractor Rick Davis placed the last rocks and logs Friday in and around a 62-foot-long, 10-foot-wide, and 8-foot-high culvert under Glendale Road.

The culvert, installed as part of Island County’s effort to reopen the flood-ravaged road, replaces a 48-inch pipe that blocked fish from upper reaches of the creek since the early 1960s.

Russ Ramsey, a South Whidbey fisherman and salmon advocate, said the $100,000-plus culverting job came just in time. During the past two fall salmon runs, he and other volunteers netted fish at the bottom of the creek and transported them to water above the small pipe.

This year, Ramsey is ready to watch the fish make the journey on their own.

“The salmon are already at the mouth (of the creek),” he said Monday.

Island County Engineer Dick Snyder said this is the last of several huge culverts designed to “daylight” the stream. A condition to reopening Glendale Road, the culverts were required by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife before the county could begin work in late 1999.

Now, with just two weeks remaining on the the road reconstruction schedule, Snyder said he is looking forward to a day later this fall when both fish and cars can travel through the Glendale Creek canyon.

“Our intent is to reopen the road,” he said.

It should happen, based on the amount of money the county has spent on the project. Flooding in January 1997 caused the road to collapse in several places, and washed out culverts and driveways in the Glendale community. To repair the damage, Island County has spent about $1.1 million in state and federal money to build a retaining wall along one portion of the road, repave damaged sections of the road, and make the creek more fish friendly.

Snyder expects South Whidbey’s Island Asphalt to finish the paving work on the road within the next two weeks. After that, a county road crew will sealcoat the road.

The board of Island County commissioners must take a formal vote to open the road before traffic is allowed to use it. That vote could come at any time after the work is competed.

The road opening could also be slowed by a lawsuit filed by the Friends of Glendale Creek, a group of South Whidbey residents who have opposed two lanes of traffic on Glendale Road. Don Miller, a spokesman for the group, said the suit may be rushed to court by an agreement between Island County and the Friends.

At this point, Miller said, his group probably will not ask that the road be removed, since the work is nearly complete. If the Friends win the suit, he said the group would ask for more “habitat enhancement” and greater precautions against future road collapses into the creek.

“It’s not very realistic to take the road out,” he said.

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