Skip to main content
King County logo

News

King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Protecting and restoring Bear Creek watershed, one of the most productive salmon habitats in all of King County

Summary

A key segment of the Bear Creek watershed near Redmond – one of the most productive salmon habitats in the Central Puget Sound region – is now permanently protected, the latest progress by the Land Conservation Initiative launched by King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Story

Executive Dow Constantine touring Bear Creek
A photograph of a wooded area around Bear Creek.
A photo of an interpretive sign for Lower Bear Creek.

Executive Dow Constantine today announced that King County has acquired a key parcel of the Bear Creek watershed near Redmond – one of the most productive salmon habitats in the region – and will expand public access to environmental education and natural areas.

The 7.6-acre parcel was identified by King County’s Land Conservation Initiative as an ideal candidate for preservation based on its ecological significance and its history as an outdoor educational center where people can see returning salmon migrate upstream. It will be added to King County Parks’ inventory of natural areas.

“Permanently protecting habitat and open space in the Bear Creek watershed demonstrates our ability to achieve multiple benefits with a single acquisition,” said Executive Constantine. “We will build on the community’s legacy of environmental stewardship by restoring one of the most productive salmon-bearing systems in our rapidly urbanizing region, improving water quality, and increasing public access to a spectacular natural area.”

Bear Creek – located near Redmond, within unincorporated King County – is an ideal spawning and rearing habitat for multiple salmon species, including Chinook, that provide sustenance to southern resident orcas. Young salmon migrate from the creek into the Sammamish River, which flows into Lake Washington, and then through Ballard Locks to Puget Sound.


A map displaying the Bear Creek Basin.

King County has a history of working with the Bear Creek watershed community to protect and restore land and water resources. Several local groups and landowners have voluntarily stepped up to contribute to stewardship efforts for the benefit of people and critical salmon habitat.

Owners of the nearby nonprofit Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center opted to sell a portion of their land to provide for a restoration project along the creek. The project will improve habitat and water temperatures along Avondale Road, upstream of the newest acquisition.

Despite these efforts, degraded water quality poses a risk to critical salmon habitat. More pollutants are entering Bear Creek as the result of development in the watershed, with more rain falling on impervious surfaces and washing motor oil, metals, and pesticides directly into streams. The increase in stormwater pollution is a growing threat to water quality and salmon habitat throughout the region.

A 2018 study recommended that King County upgrade and retrofit its stormwater infrastructure in Bear Creek watershed to protect water quality as the region experiences more severe rainstorms as the result of climate change.

The study, completed by King County Stormwater Services, recommended four actions to improve stormwater management in Bear Creek watershed. These recommendations include the county improving infrastructure, supporting efforts to install green stormwater infrastructure on private lands, restoring habitat along streams and wetlands, and supporting actions in the community that accomplish these efforts.

Installing green stormwater infrastructure – such as raingardens and cisterns – achieves multiple benefits, including increased public access to green space, better salmon habitat, water quality and flow control for receiving creeks, wetlands and ultimately, Puget Sound. Technical and financial assistance are available to residents and non-profit organizations who would like to partner in the effort to protect and restore water quality and habitat in Bear Creek watershed.

Protecting water quality, improving habitat, increasing access to open space

The project to protect and restore the recently acquired land applies the principles of Clean Water Healthy Habitat, an initiative that Executive Constantine launched in 2019 to better align actions across county departments and divisions to achieve the best results for water quality.

The approach unifies the efforts of multiple divisions within the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks – Water and Land Resources, Wastewater Treatment, and Parks – to simultaneously protect water quality, improve habitat, and increase equitable access to open space.

The Hussey family has owned the property surrounding Bear Creek for generations, offering environmental educational opportunities to preschools, building a Salmon SEEson interpretive trail, and operating an organic nursery and feed store. The family offered to sell the property to the county because of its commitment to permanently protecting open spaces through the Land Conservation Initiative, a partnership to protect 65,000 acres of the last remaining, most at-risk open spaces within a single generation before the opportunities are lost.

King County will remove most of the buildings on the site as it restores the watershed to its natural state, reducing the amount of impervious surface near the creek. The county acquired the property for $740,000 with half of the funding generated by the Conservation Futures Program and the other half generated by the voter-approved King County Parks Levy.


Relevant links


Quotes

Permanently protecting habitat and open space in the Bear Creek watershed demonstrates our ability to achieve multiple benefits with a single acquisition. We will build on the community’s legacy of environmental stewardship by restoring one of the most productive salmon-bearing systems in our rapidly urbanizing region, improving water quality, and increasing public access to a spectacular natural area.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

When we considered selling the farm property, our first thoughts were two-fold: Honor the wishes of the original owner to share the land with the community, and preserve its natural assets, the habitat and salmon stream. Instinctively, we knew King County would do just that. We are very grateful to them for providing this opportunity.

Leon and Linda Hussey, former stewards in Bear Creek watershed

Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center is a nonprofit organization that takes its stewardship responsibilities very seriously. Adjacent to Bear Creek off Avondale Road in Redmond, Little Bit provides all on-site stormwater management on its 14-acre property, partners with King County to manage one of the largest raingardens in western Washington, and assists King County staff in monitoring the stream. Little Bit was a key partner when King County expanded its conservation holdings in the Bear Creek riparian zone.

Paula J. Del Giudice, Executive Director, Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center

For more information, contact:

Chad Lewis, Department of Natural Resources and Parks, 206-263-1250


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography