Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Skeleton of the Old Power Plant

The area of Renton, Washington, near Lake Washington has undergone numerous changes over the past 10 years.  One of these changes was the removal of the old Shuffleton Power Plant and its replacement with apartment buildings. Today, about the only thing left of the old power plant is a massive 656-foot-long metal flume which runs along the south shore of Lake Washington and is slowly rusting away. In addition, the flume is only about 1,600 feet from the mouth of the Cedar River, an important natal stream for anadromous salmonids. During plant operation, the flume served as the outflow for water from the power plant.

From January to April, large numbers of Chinook salmon fry leave the Cedar River and rear in the south end of Lake Washington. These fish prefer non-armored shorelines with sand and gravel substrates that have both open beaches and areas with riparian vegetation which provide woody debris and overhanging vegetation.  Unfortunately, the old flume has little of these habitat characteristics. 

Preferred habitat conditions--open beach (left) and riparian vegetation (right)--of
juvenile Chinook salmon in south Lake Washington

Chinook salmon are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and resource managers in the Lake Washington area have been looking for shoreline areas that can be restored. The flume is an obvious choice because it is a large structure close to the Cedar River and is owned by Washington Department of Natural Resources (WDNR).

Juvenile Chinook salmon at night
in Lake Washington
Removal of the flume and other shoreline improvements will occur in late summer of 2011 or 2012.  From January to June 2011, our office will be working with WDNR to conduct snorkel surveys to gather information on juvenile Chinook salmon use under pre-restoration (current) conditions. Surveys are done at night when juvenile Chinook salmon are easier to observe and count accurately. The surveys are being done in three areas: (1) Along the flume wall; (2) an adjacent shoreline that will also be improved; and (3) nearby shoreline in Gene Coulon Park that will serve as a control site. Additional monitoring will occur after the restoration activities have been completed.