Restoring the Duwamish River

– There’s two ways to
describe the river today. Number one is an urban river, probably one of the most
populated watersheds in the state. The other way to describe
it as this is home. This is where I come from,
is where my people come from. Without a river there isn’t a people. Without a people, there’s no River. Salmon are part of my family. Native people understood how much of an important species it is. Eagles to Heron, they’re
all feeding on the salmon. It is the salmon that’s
giving that life to you. They are an icon. It’s hard to think about
Puget Sound without Salmon. – In 2019, we named the Green-Duwamish one of America most endangered rivers. And this is a call to action around rivers that are
facing urgent threats. These are rivers where the
public needs to take action. Urge decision makers
to do the right thing. – American rivers is
a nationwide nonprofit focused on river protection
and conservation. Flood protection measures over the years, constrain this channel
so that it can’t move can’t function like a river and increase temperatures in this area are making the water so hot. It’s actually lethal to salmon. Baby salmon are kind of this last story. Once they hatch in the headwaters, they have this arduous
journey moving downstream where they go through this
complete transformation. They go from a freshwater
fish about this big all the way down to the ocean. And along that journey,
they need complex habitat. They need areas with low
velocity and cool water that are abundant in food. Natural rivers create side channels and deep pools where they can congregate and where they can have those areas and where they’re safe from predators. When you have river that’s been
levied or heavily modified, you lose that complexity, you lose that floodplain habitat and you lose those critical
areas for salmon to rear. Aletheia is essentially a mount of earth that has been piled up next to a river next to a floodplain area
so that people can build areas behind it. And so here in the lower green majority of this area has been
levied over the last decades, and development has come in behind it. – On the Green-Duwamish, we’ve seen a lot of outdated big levees that have really destroyed
a lot of salmon habitat, we’re down to 10% of
that historic abundance. And this actually can
create worst flooding because it raises the flood waters raises the level of the river and it threatens downstream communities because that water has
to have somewhere to go. – By building these levees here. You’ve cut off all that complexity and eliminated all of those
natural process from functioning and you’re left with this
open flat water ditch. – This river used to be 15 miles and bands and all kinds of things. And when they cut the New River so that this area could be
useful as an industrial area and accessed by a lot of ships, they straight only five miles. So they took 10 miles of the river out Salmon are like this
incredibly key species in the middle of the web. It’s kind of like the genre game where you can pull out a piece of wood and the tower still remains together. Salmon are that one thing
that if you take it out, that whole thing falls apart. (slow upbeat music) – Rivers are remarkably resilient, they can be restored. Even After decades, even
after 100 years of damage, you can bring a river back. – By looking at Google Earth way, we’re able to see strategic locations where habitat opportunities might exist. These levees could be set back, back into the floodplain further and make these waters salmon safe again. – There are so many species
that rely on the salmon itself that that whole tower doesn’t fall. That’s why they’re so important. We are connected through water. Everybody is connected through water, where we find that water is in the rivers. I described the creeks
and the rivers very much like the veins in your hand and your arm, in your chest in your legs. We have taken advantage of these systems and not respected them. So we have to change that. – Salmon or keystone species
for the Pacific Northwest, not only are they ingrained in the cultural legacy of this area and to indigenous
communities have lived here for thousands of years, but they really are the keystone
of the entire food chain. – Hope that I have for the ecosystem, the whole
system, the estuary here, and then with that salmon is that when the Duwamish
tribe has a function at the longhouse and cultural center, we don’t get our fish from Alaska. That we can actually say, it’s okay to have fish from this river. We don’t do that today. Because we don’t trust the fish here. That’s going to be a day
that’s really special. Because now the system is
put back together again. And that doesn’t mean that
the industry’s have to go. The whole system can work better, and we can do a better job. It’s our own survival
that we’re looking at.

3 thoughts on “Restoring the Duwamish River

  1. These people are heroes. Thanks Google Earth for sharing this story. Looking forward to supporting American Rivers.

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