College of the Environment Graduate and Undergraduate Publications

Alternative title

Squalicum Creek reroute

Date Permissions Signed


College Affiliation

Huxley College of the Environment

Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type

Environmental Impact Assessment

Department or Program Affiliation

Department of Environmental Studies


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Melious, Jean O.


Squalicum Creek is one of the largest independent drainages in Whatcom County, draining most of Northern Bellingham. The creek originates in the Cascade foothills and empties into Bellingham Bay. Squalicum Creek has the highest potential for high water quality and productive fish habitat within the Bellingham city limits. The location of the creek is shown in Figure 1 with the reach addressed in this document highlighted as the Project Area. Current conditions within the project area impede fish passage and provide few spawning areas. In addition, Bug Lake and Sunset Pond currently create the highest thermal loading in Squalicum Creek. The creek also fails to meet water quality standards for dissolved oxygen (DO) and fecal coliform. The proposed action will improve water quality and native fish habitat as well as reduce predation by non-native species. This report examines three possible outcomes: the proposed action, an alternative action and a no-action alternative. The proposed action involves creating a new stream channel to route the creek around Sunset Pond. The creek will maintain its route through Bug Lake, however, it will be partially filled to create wetlands and a narrower and more complex stream channel. Increased riparian zones and installations of large woody debris (LWD) in the creek will improve water quality, stream complexity, and provide resting spaces for fish. This plan also includes the modification of existing and construction of new in-stream structures to improve fish passage by enabling salmon to out-migrate as juveniles and move upstream to spawning grounds as adults. The alternative action proposes to fill in large portions of both Bug Lake and Sunset Pond, leaving a narrow channel and transforming the remaining pond areas from manmade aqueducts to riparian areas and emergent wetlands. Riparian planting would also be added around the current stream channel between the lakes and fish passage barriers improved to facilitate fish migration. The no-action alternative would leave the creek in its current condition, leaving habitat issues unresolved. Adverse impacts from the proposed project include increased sediment loading and stormwater pollution from surrounding current and future development as well as disruption of some existing wetland areas. Water quality benefits from the lakes during high flows would also be lost. Temporary impacts as a result of infrastructure and channel improvements would be mitigated by the addition of engineered wetlands as well as continued monitoring, adaptive management strategies and education and outreach efforts to prevent further contamination via stormwater. Short term increased sediment loading during construction cannot be completely mitigated and will have potential significant adverse effects such as increased turbidity, temperature, and lowered dissolved oxygen levels which could be harmful to fish remaining in the stream. Long term goals of the project will improve these temporarily decreased water quality parameters. Impacts of the alternative action would be similar to the proposed action. There are additional potential impacts from non-native soils and even more sediment loading during construction from filling in the ponds. The alternative does not improve floodplain conveyance, though increased wetlands will help manage high-flow conditions. This alternative requires very little new infrastructure. Some supporters of the proposed Bay to Baker Trail disapprove of the current Squalicum Creek re-route because the new channel would follow the old Burlington Northern Railroad grade, which was the original location for the Bay to Baker Trail. If the re-route is completed, then the trail would have to circumvent the bridge by following James Street to the nearest intersection at McLeod Rd. These supporters claim that the Bay to Baker Trail deserves priority since that project's development began years ago. In addition, some members of the community disagree over the future recreation use of Sunset Pond.




Stream channelization--Washington (State)--Squalicum Creek, Stream restoration--Washington (State)--Squalicum Creek, Salmonidae--Habitat--Washington (State)--Squalicum Creek, Warmwater fishes--Habitat--Washington (State)--Squalicum Creek, Squalicum Creek (Wash.)--Environmental conditions, Environmental impact analysis--Washington (State)--Squalicum Creek


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Stream channelization--Washington (State)--Squalicum Creek; Stream restoration--Washington (State)--Squalicum Creek; Salmonidae--Habitat--Washington (State)--Squalicum Creek; Warmwater fishes--Habitat--Washington (State)--Squalicum Creek; Squalicum Creek (Wash.)--Environmental conditions; Environmental impact analysis--Washington (State)--Squalicum Creek

Geographic Coverage

Squalicum Creek (Wash.)




environmental impact statements




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