Business owner transforms Juanita Creek section for migrating salmon

A Kirkland restaurant owner wondered why she didn’t see more salmon migrating through the section of Juanita Creek running along her property.

So Cafe Juanita owner and executive chef Holly Smith took it upon herself to transform her portion of the creek — and give the migrating salmon a healthier highway.

With the help of two local environmental nonprofits, the Adopt a Stream Foundation and the King Conservation District, Smith had a whole host of tree stumps chained together along the stream bank, and logs and a boulder added to the water.

“This created 100 feet of refuge for salmon and trout while they’re in that [migration] process,” Smith said.

Migrating, she explained, is a tiring journey, and salmon need a place to take shelter and rest. The crevices in these logs and roots provide a natural habitat where they can do that.

To put it in driving terms, Smith said, “This is a place that they can stop, where the current can’t get them — they can kind of pull off. It’s a little rest stop.”

Additionally, having the weight of the stumps against the bank prevents the bank from eroding, which in turn stops sediment from clogging up the stream.

This part of the ‘ex-stream makeover’ was completed this week after being underway for more than a year.

And it’s already paying off — Smith and KIRO Newsradio observed several migrating salmon swimming and jumping through this section of Juanita Creek on Friday.

It was more salmon than Smith has seen on her property in years — a gratifying end to the project.

As a chef who works so closely with natural products, Smith feels a calling helping protect the environment.

“Clean up the area around you — if everyone does that — I’m happy to help my part of the stream. It’s our responsibility,” Smith said, adding, “I kind of always think, if you try to do the right thing, you get back what you give,” she said.

Over the winter, Smith and environmental groups will begin the next phase of the project — planting trees along the bank to shade the salmon in the stream.

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