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caption: Floodwaters at Issaquah Creek on Friday, January 7, 2022.
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Floodwaters at Issaquah Creek on Friday, January 7, 2022.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Can salmon eggs survive Washington's heavy floods?

When rivers flood, it can damage the salmon eggs held within them, setting back those populations.

This is true for big rivers like Washington's Nooksack and Skagit, and also for small creeks that run through urban areas, some of which support the Northwest's healthy salmon populations.

Travis Burnett works there for the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. He looks out at Issaquah Creek as its floodwaters receded Friday, January 7. He’s thinking about the next generation of salmon.

"I mean, there are eggs out there that were incubating," he says. "I’m sure a lot of them got washed out. That doesn’t mean they're dead, it just means they got washed out and will most likely end up in Lake Sammamish. They may have survived, they may not. We have no real way of determining that."

caption: As part of routine maintenance, WDFW employee Travis Burnett culls dead salmon eggs to protect live eggs from spoilage. These eggs will be used to help revive salmon populations after the flooding on Issaquah Creek washed many of the eggs into Lake Sammamish, where they're at risk of predation by other fish like bass.
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As part of routine maintenance, WDFW employee Travis Burnett culls dead salmon eggs to protect live eggs from spoilage. These eggs will be used to help revive salmon populations after the flooding on Issaquah Creek washed many of the eggs into Lake Sammamish, where they're at risk of predation by other fish like bass.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

But there is some good news, according to Robin Kelley, who works at a non-profit Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery (FISH).

"We do know that the eggs that are being incubated in the building did survive," Kelley said. "So we know we have protected stock that will be put in the ponds and released next spring."

Kelley just hopes the floods don’t happen too often, so salmon can recover.