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First chinook salmon in five years spotted in Hylebos
"First Ron Larson heard the splashing that told him something big was swimming in Hylebos Creek.Then, he saw the backs of two fish poking out of the water and knew he was looking at salmon. When they swam underneath the bridge he stood on, he recognized them as chinook - the first wild chinook spotted in more than five years in Hylebos Creek. Chinook also are known as king salmon.It was exciting, Larson said. You're wondering how many of them are going to come. ... I think the salmon is part of a healthy river, health stream, healthy environment. If we can do it in an urban setting, it seems we're making some progress with what we're doing with the ecosystem.The finding not only proves the value of local volunteer efforts, but also demonstrates the importance of tough development restrictions to protect water systems that run through Federal Way, says Chris Carrel, Friends of the Hylebos Wetlands' executive director.We've always said don't discount the Hylebos system, Carrel said. There are plenty of surprises in it.Larson is among the members of the The Friends of the Hylebos Wetlands Stream Team. At the time of the sighting, he was with Carrel and fellow volunteer Tracy Engels. One chinook they spotted was 30 inches long.The Friends of the Hylebos Wetlands is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the West Hylebos Wetlands State Park and restoring the Hylebos Creek watershed.Before spotting the two chinook salmon on Oct. 5, Larson was growing disappointed because he hadn't spotted any salmon in two weeks of visits to the creek. He saw the chinook while standing on a small bridge that spans 373rd Street off Pacific Highway.Puget Sound chinook salmon are listed by the federal government as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.Many people have concluded that chinook salmon were gone for good from Hylebos Creek. Carrel views the sighting as proof that the team's efforts are working and considers it incentive to do more.Carrel calls it a tremendous discovery.People tend to write off these urbanized watersheds, he said. Knowing that Hylebos chinook are not extinct makes our restoration work much more important. The more chinook-friendly we can make this stream, the more their populations will rebound here.Volunteers with the Friends of the Hylebos Stream Team have been monitoring the creek since late September, looking for spawning salmon. Their data is used to document salmon populations and help plan for salmon recovery in the urbanized watershed that stretches from downtown Federal Way to Commencement Bay.Hylebos Stream Team coordinator Carla Bowditch says the finding indicates the value of volunteers.Chinook have historically resided in the Hylebos basin, Carrel said. Scientists have said the Hylebos isn't a chinook stream anymore due to the flooding that occurs there.This says this is a chinook stream, Carrel said. While it has its problems, that you have chinook is an indicator of a pretty strong system, of a resilient stream. Another thing it says is we've got endangered species in Federal Way. "