Way back in the 1990s, Seattle realized it had a problem. Potentially, a very big problem.
The city was growing fast, but our drinking water was also needed by salmon. And not just any salmon…potentially endangered salmon. How would we make sure there was enough water for both people and fish?
Seattle began work on a 50-year Habitat Conservation Plan, which encompasses the entire Cedar River Watershed—the main source of our drinking water. The HCP is a large-scale plan to protect and preserve fish and wildlife habitat.
I just finished a three-sign project that interprets a few aspects of the plan. It’s on a small parcel on the lower part of the watershed where Seattle and its partners are restoring habitat and building a small public access trail.
Seattle is unique in America in that it owns the entire watershed of its main drinking water source: the Cedar River. That means every inch of land that sheds water into the Cedar and that ultimately reaches our faucets is owned and controlled by us. Our water is protected from human-caused ickiness from the moment it falls from the sky until it enters the water pipe at Landsburg Dam. After that, it flows into the transmission and distribution pipeline system—1800 miles of underground pipelines until it reaches your tap. (For the whole very interesting story, watch the official video).
We don’t own the watershed below Landsburg Dam, but none of that water is used for drinking, so it’s not a problem…at least not for us. For fish and wildlife, though, it’s another story. In many places, wildlife habitat has been impacted by development. Things like levees or bank-hardening, invasive plants, and pollutants have impacted habitat in many places.
The lower watershed was once one of the richest salmon spawning habitats in the world, and Seattle and its partners are working to preserve and restore it to good condition. I did the watercolor on the sign below to highlight some of the main features of good salmon habitat.
The sign below shows the upper watershed—the area that is off-limits to unsupervised access. That glowing lake in the center? That’s your drinking water—as clean as it can be!
Want to see salmon spawn in the Cedar River?
NOW is the time to go! At Landsburg, you can see the best show, but there are other sites and also volunteer naturalists on hand.
To find out where and when to go, check the Cedar River Salmon Journey Website.
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