Squalicum Creek is a lowland stream that originates in the Cascade foothills east of Bellingham and flows west through the City limits before entering Bellingham Bay. The stream drains approximately 22 square miles and historically provided approximately 32 miles of accessible salmon habitat (Williams 1976). The stream currently provides habitat for Coho, Chum, Pink, and Chinook and Steelhead (both listed under the Endangered Species Act). It also supports populations of fish, birds and mammals, as well as recreational opportunities for citizens. However, the health of this ecosystem is in jeopardy. Symptoms of ecosystem stress include exceedances of water quality standards and declining salmon populations.
The largest thermal-loading (i.e. heat) issues in
Squalicum Creek were formerly caused by Sunset Pond and Bug Lake. These two water bodies are man-made pits 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 harmful to salmon.
During the summer of 2015, Phases 1 and 2 of the Squalicum Creek project re-routed nearly a mile of Squalicum Creek around Sunset Pond into a newly created channel, reactivating remnant channels and reconnecting the stream with its floodplain. This project also eliminated existing fish passage barriers James Street and I-5, opening up over 22 miles of salmon habitat upstream of James Street. This project is anticipated to decrease water temperatures, improve dissolved oxygen levels, enhance biotic integrity and benefit salmon habitat in Squalicum Creek by routing water flow away from Sunset Pond.
Phase 1 runs from the northeast corner of Bug Lake eastward to James Street and is funded by a $1.7 million grant and loan package from the Department of Ecology (DOE). The City received an additional $2.1 million grant and loan package from the DOE for Phase 2, which runs from James Street eastward to Irongate. The City contracted with Interfluve, Inc. for the design and permitting of both phases and Washington Department of Transportation installed a culvert under I-5 to accommodate the re-route.
Reactivating remnant channels and reconnecting the stream with its floodplain will make self-sustaining improvements to habitat conditions of Squalicum Creek. The project phases are designed with a thorough understanding and consideration of the hydrology, climate patterns, geology, and ecology of the watershed.
Phase 3 of the Squalicum Re-route Project will address water quality and habitat issues associated with Bug Lake. Project construction will likely begin the summer of 2017.
The re-route project is being closely coordinated with other projects in the area which includes the
James Street Bridge improvements,
Bay to Baker trail, Woodstock/James streets intersection improvements, and the
Orchard Street Extension. The City presented an overview of all the
Squalicum corridor projects at an open house on May 6, 2014. Project information can also be found on the
Squalicum Creek Re-route Phases 1 and 2 capital project page.
Project Manager: Renee LaCroix, Ecology and Restoration Manager, Public Works Department, Natural Resources. (360) 778-7966,