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Squalicum Creek Re-route Phases I and 2

Squalicum Creek culvert

Please join us for the Squalicum Corridor Open House  May 6, 2014, 6-7:30 at Grace Baptist Church in Bellingham to learn more about this and other upcoming projects in the area.

Squalicum Creek is a tributary of Bellingham Bay located 2.5 miles east of the Nooksack River delta. The Squalicum Creek watershed drains a total of 22 square miles of terrain and supports habitat for Coho salmon, Chum salmon, cutthroat trout and steelhead trout. The riparian areas function as wildlife corridors for many birds and mammals and are essential habitat for several species.

Squalicum Creek has the greatest potential for high water quality and productive fish habitat within Bellingham city limits. However, the health of the ecosystem is in jeopardy. Symptoms of ecosystem stress include fish passage blockages, exceedances of water quality standards, and declining salmon stocks. Squalicum Creek exceeds Washington State water quality standards for temperature, dissolved oxygen, and fecal coliform bacteria. The City collects data on water quality in Squalicum Creek each month as part of the Urban Streams Monitoring Program. Squalicum Creek is listed as impaired (Category 5) for dissolved oxygen (DO), fecal coliform, and temperature on the Department of Ecology 303(d) list.

The largest thermal-loading (heat) issues in Squalicum Creek are caused by Sunset Pond and Bug Lake. These two water bodies are man-made lakes created during the construction of I-5 for fill material. Because the ponds are both shallow and wide, they absorb large amounts of solar heat, causing peaks in water temperature that are not healthy for salmon.

The Squalicum Creek Re-route project (both phases) involves re-routing large sections of Squalicum Creek around two man-made ponds, through a new channel, reactivating remnant channels, and reconnecting the stream with its floodplain. The project also eliminates an existing fish passage blockage under I-5, thus opening up over 22 miles of salmon habitat upstream of I-5. The projects will dramatically decrease water temperatures, and improve dissolved oxygen, biotic integrity, and beneficial habitat in Squalicum Creek by routing water flow away from Bug Lake and Sunset Pond.

The project will be done in two phases characterized by two different sections of the stream that are funded separately. Phase 1 runs from the corner of Birchwood Avenue and Squalicum Parkway to I-5 and is funded by a $1.7 million grant and loan package from the Department of Ecology. The City received an additional $2.1 million grant and loan package from the Department of Ecology for Phase 2 of the Squalicum Creek re-route, which runs from James St. eastward to Irongate. Phase 1 and 2 will be constructed concurrently in 2015. The City contracted with Interfluve Inc. for the design and permitting of both phases.

These projects represent a major change in existing Squalicum Creek conditions that will be self-sustaining. The stream re-route projects are being designed with a thorough understanding of the hydrology, climate patterns, geology, and ecology of the watershed.

The re-route project is being closely coordinated with other projecTrail corridor under I-5ts in the area under the collaboration "Squalicum Corridor Projects" including the James St. Bridge replacement, Bay to Baker trail, Bakerview Road/James Street intersection, Woodstock/James streets intersection improvements, and the Orchard St. Extension. The Department of Transportation installed a culvert under I-5 to accommodate the future reroute.

Public Meetings

Reference Documents

Project Manager:  Renee LaCroix, Ecology and Restoration Manager, Public Works Department, Natural Resources. (360)778-7966,


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