Fire In Western Wash. Raises Fears For Spawning Salmon

Oct 11, 2012

A fire that burned roughly 250 acres in Mason County last week has been put out. Now biologists are concerned about the potential impacts on local salmon runs. Ashley Ahearn reports for EarthFix.

Johns Creek flows into Puget Sound near Shelton, Washington. It’s about 9 miles long and is home to one of the strongest runs of chum salmon in the southern part of the Sound.

And right now, it’s full of fish and blanketed in ash, says John Konovsky. He’s the Environmental program manager for the Squaxin Island Tribe.

Konovsky: “The fire burned all the way down to the water. It’s in a steep ravine and you look up the hillside and all you see is all this ash, this blanket of ash. It looks like a snowstorm actually.”

There’s rain expected this weekend. That could be bad news for the tens of thousands of summer run chum salmon that are spawning in the creek right now.

Konovsky worries that the ash will irritate their gills and smother the eggs.

Johns Creek empties out onto some of the most valuable shellfish beds in Puget Sound.

This September was the third driest on record and there was no measureable rain in August.

Konovsky: “It’s not something I’ve ever dealt with before. If this is a harbinger of the future it’s not good.”

Konovsky said the tribe will be monitoring the situation and may put down straw to block the ash from sensitive parts of the creek.

More than 60,000 acres have burned in Washington this year.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio