Puyallup: News

Water quality improves, salmon return to Meeker Creek

Joy Rodriguez, associate stormwater engineer for the City of Puyallup, is one of the forces behind the transformation of Meeker Creek to an engineered salmon habitat.
Joy Rodriguez, associate stormwater engineer for the City of Puyallup, is one of the forces behind the transformation of Meeker Creek to an engineered salmon habitat. Staff photographer

Meeker Creek used to contain high pH levels, sediments and had overall poor water quality. Now, thanks to the City of Puyallup, the Pierce Conservation District and a few grants, salmon have recently returned to the downtown creek.

“The goal was to improve the water quality,” said Joy Rodriguez, associate stormwater engineer for the city. “It’s a fully engineered salmon habitat that supports salmon in different stages of life.”

According to Rodriguez, the creek located near 10th Avenue Southwest and 14th Street Southwest was formerly a ditch, but has now been transformed into a fully restored meandering creek channel that provides flood benefits, improved salmon spawning and an increase in water quality.

While the creek itself has been fully transformed into a fully functioning salmon habitat featuring riffles, glides and pools to provide oxygenation and water quality improvements, work still needs to be done on the 1,000-foot-long property.

The city has partnered with the Pierce Conservation District to schedule volunteer planting events for the community to plant 10,000 trees and shrubs along the creek’s banks.

“We had 16 volunteers at our first planting (Oct. 17),” said Melissa Buckingham, water quality improvement director for the Pierce Conservation District. “We got 200 plants in the ground, but have a little over 4,000 plants left to go in.”

Buckingham has three more plantings scheduled: Saturday (Oct. 31), Nov. 7 and Nov. 21.

“All ages and abilities are welcome,” Buckingham said. “There’s a job for everyone.”

Buckingham says the plantings will go on rain or shine, and for attendees to dress for the elements.

“Bring gloves and appropriate footwear,” she said.

The restoration efforts have finally paid off, and Rodriguez has observed salmon returning to the creek in all stages of life.

“We’ve had salmon sightings,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve seen schools of five or six salmon in the water.”

Buckingham also said that a blue heron and killdeer birds have returned to the creek, which are signs that the engineered habitat is working.

To volunteer with the Meeker Creek plantings, contact Buckingham by phone at 253-845-9770 extension 109 or via email at melissab@piercecountycd.org.

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