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 four 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 many species.
The City received $2.1 million in grant and loan funding for Phase 2 of the
Squalicum Creek re-route. Phase 2 is from James St. eastward to Irongate.
Phase 1 runs from Squalicum Parkway to I-5 and is also funded by a separate
$1.7 million grant and loan package from the Department of Ecology. Phase 1
and 2 will be constructed concurrently in 2015. The city contracted with
Interfluve Inc. for design and permitting of both phases.
The re-route design is being closely coordinated with other projects in the area including: the James St. Bridge improvements, Bay to Baker trail, Woodstock/James streets intersection improvements, and the Orchard St. Extension. The Department of Transportation is currently installing a culvert under I-5 to accommodate the future reroute.
Squalicum Creek has the highest potential for high water quality and productive fish habitat within the 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.
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 overall project (all phases) involves rerouting 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 I5.
The highest thermal (heat) loading 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 heating.
This project will dramatically decrease water temperatures, and improve dissolved oxygen, biotic integrity, and beneficial uses in Squalicum Creek by routing water flow away from Bug Lake and Sunset Pond.
These projects will represent a major change in existing Squalicum Creek conditions that will be self sustaining. The stream re-route projects will be designed with a thorough understanding of the hydrology, climate patterns, geology, and ecology of the watershed.
Project Manager: Renee LA Croix, Environmental Coordinator, Public Works Department. (360)778-7966, email@example.com