South Fork Nooksack River Fish Camp (Ts'eq) Integrated Flood and Fish Project
The South Fork Nooksack (Nuxw7íyem)1 River Fish Camp (Ts’éq)2 Integrated Flood and Fish Project (Fish Camp Project) is a collaboration of the Nooksack Indian Tribe Natural Resources Department (Tribe) and the Whatcom County Public Works River and Flood Division to develop broadly-supported, multi-beneficial solutions to reduce flood risk to the Acme community and restore habitat for ESA-listed early-timed Chinook salmon and other salmonid species. Community and stakeholder involvement is both a major component of this project and key to its success. Community meetings and close coordination with affected landowners will occur throughout the project to convey technical information and solicit feedback.
Local residents provide their input at Community Workshop #1 on June 27th at the Acme Presbyterian Church
A citizen weighs whether or not to cross floodwaters rushing across SR 9 north of the Acme General Store. Credit: Whatcom County River and Flood
Adult chinook holding in an engineered log jam (ELJ) at the Hardscrabble Restoration Project Reach in the South Fork Nooksack River. ELJ’s and natural log jams create scour pools with complex cover, often with cooler temperatures, that are a refuge for adult holding and juvenile rearing. Credit: Nooksack Natural Resources
Local South Fork Nooksack Valley resident discussing recent erosion concerns to Nooksack Tribe Natural Resources Staff in 2017. Credit: Nooksack Natural Resources (Lindsie Fratus-Thomas)
“It’s in our hands”, juvenile salmonid captured during fish exclusion during ELJ construction on the Nooksack River. Credit: Nooksack Natural Resources (Lindsie Fratus-Thomas)
South Fork County Park. Credit: Whatcom County Parks and Recreation
Fly fisherman fishing on the South Fork Nooksack near Van Zandt 2009. Credit: Bellingham Herald
State Route Highway 9 floods regularly in the fall/winter during high flows in the Acme Valley. Credit: KGMI/Jake Hazel
Farmland in the South Fork Nooksack Valley. Credit: South Fork Nooksack River Watershed Community Watershed Project (Holly O’Neil)
Female Chinook salmon from the South Fork Nooksack River that died prior to spawning (known as pre-spawn mortality). Flavobacterium columnare (Columnaris) is a pathogen associated with high temperatures that has been confirmed as a cause for pre-spawn mortalities of salmon in the South Fork Nooksack River. Credit: Nooksack Natural Resources (Joe Rodriguez)
Flooding in the South Fork Valley 11/13/2015. Credit: Nooksack Natural Resources (Lindsie Fratus-Thomas)
- Status: Design
- Next Steps: Complete final design
- Design: Herrera Environmental Consultants
- Reduce flood risk within the Acme area
- Improve habitat conditions to support recovery of Chinook salmon and other salmon species
Location and Background
The Fish Camp Project Area is located in the lower South Fork Nooksack River (SFNR) valley downstream and upstream of the town of Acme between river mile (RM) 7.3 and RM 9.7, respectively. The Project Area includes the SFNR mainstem channel and floodplain habitats and extends from the end of Rothenbuhler Rd. in the south to just downstream of the BNSF railway bridge in the north. The State Route (SR) 9 bridge crosses over the SFNR near RM 8.6 and conveniently separates the project area into upstream and downstream sections.
Problems this project will address include negative impacts from flooding in the Acme community and degraded habitat that strongly limits abundance and productivity of wild Nooksack early-timed Chinook salmon.
- Flooding in the Acme area is a recurring challenge for residents, and FEMA has classified it as a repetitive flood loss area due to the number and frequency of flood insurance claims. Flooding often closes SR 9, an important and historic transportation route, and other local roads. It also causes damages to homes, buildings, and infrastructure. Cumulatively, these flood impacts have direct effects on the lives and well-being of residents. The November 2021 flood event resulted in significant flood losses for the lower SFNR valley. In August 2022, the Whatcom County Public Works River and Flood Division mailed 21 letters to owners of properties that suffered the worst flood damages. The letter offered the opportunity for voluntary participation in a FEMA grant funded buyout and elevation program. According to documentation on Climate Trends and Projected Impacts in the Whatcom County Climate Action Plan, flooding in the Nooksack River is expected to become more frequent and intense in the future. The long-term flood risk reduction strategies planned for the Acme area, as part of the Fish Camp project, are vital for addressing the existing and future risks faced by the community.
- From 1999 through 2019, the abundance of natural-origin (wild) SFNR early-timed Chinook salmon have been a small fraction (<1%) of their estimated historic abundance (13,000), amounting to an average of just 97 wild adults spawning each year. Habitat degradation is considered the leading cause for the decline of local salmonid populations (WRIA 1 2005). Recovering Nooksack early Chinook salmon populations is essential to recovering the broader Puget Sound Chinook salmon. Additionally, the wild Nooksack early Chinook salmon runs hold great cultural and subsistence importance to both the Nooksack Tribe and the Lummi Nation. Early Chinook salmon that die before they can spawn are often found in the SFNR, especially during the warmest summers when river temperatures rise to dangerous levels. Pre-spawn mortality soared to unprecedented levels during the summer of 2021, when over 2,500 Chinook died on the SFNR spawning grounds due to disease associated with high river temperatures.
The Project Area presents a unique opportunity to develop an integrated flood-fish project that builds partnerships and addresses community needs, and can serve as a pilot for broader integration of salmon recovery and floodplain management throughout the Nooksack River basin.
Community outreach and the preliminary design process started with the first community workshop in 2019, and input from workshop participants helped the design team frame initial project concepts that both reduced flood risk and improved habitat conditions. Those initial concepts can be found here.
Using the concepts as a foundation, the project team went through an extensive process of (hydraulic) modeling individual design elements and then combined numerous elements into three separate design options. The project team modeled these three design options to analyze the river’s response to the combined effects of an array of design elements. The project team used the modeling results from the three options to develop draft design alternatives that showed the greatest combined benefits for flood risk reduction and salmon habitat improvements. The design alternatives were presented at the second community workshop in January 2020, and feedback from the workshop helped inform the alternatives evaluation criteria. Each alternative was evaluated and scored based on multiple criterion for each of the project performance categories listed below.
- Habitat restoration performance
- Flood impact and risk reduction
- Project implementation
A preliminary design for the project was developed based on the highest ranked alternative. Elements in the preliminary design include:
- Removing and/or lowering of riprap revetments along the river banks to improve habitat and floodplain reconnection
- Expanding the openings of existing bridges to increase hydraulic conveyance
- Constructing engineered logjams to improve habitat
- Incorporating logs into existing riprap armored banks to improve habitat
- Constructing a flood protection berm in Acme to reduce flood risk for the community
- Constructing floodplain side channels to improve habitat and restore natural channel processes
Preliminary design for the highest ranked alternative was presented at the most recent (third) community workshop on September 15th, 2022. A summary of the workshop and community feedback received can be found in the Outreach & Engagement section below. Overall, feedback has been positive, and the community is eager to support solutions to reduce flood risk and improve habitat. This graphic depicts the steps in the design process to date. The Preliminary Design Report provides a detailed overview of the design development, alternatives analysis, the highest rank alternative, and the preliminary design.
To accommodate funding availability, landowner outreach needs, and factors related to implementation (permitting, constructability, etc.), the project team has separated the project into two areas: Project Area 1 and Project Area 2. Project Area 1 is downstream of the SR-9 bridge and extends to the downstream extent of the riprap revetment along the left bank (looking downstream) on the Acme Farms property. Project Area 2 is upstream of (and includes) the SR-9 bridge and extends south to Rothenbuhler Rd. Refinement of design, hydraulic modeling, and stakeholder outreach for Project Areas 1 and 2 will occur simultaneously with an emphasis on developing Project Area 1 designs at a somewhat faster pace. The anticipated timeline for design refinement is provided below and will be updated as progress is made.
- Project Area 1 (downstream of SR-9 bridge)
- 60% Design: Fall - Winter 2022-2023
- 90% Design: Spring - Summer 2022-2023
- 100% Design: Fall - Winter 2023-2024
- Project Area 2 (upstream of the SR-9 bridge)
- 30% Design: Fall - Winter 2022-2023
- 60% Design: Spring - Summer 2022-2023
- 100% Design: Fall - Winter 2023-2024
The project team will reach out directly to stakeholders associated with the project for review and input throughout these design stages (30%, 60%, etc.). Project updates will be sent to the Fish Camp project listserv and posted on this page.
Outreach & Engagement
The project co-leads are committed to engaging stakeholders throughout this process. The team has hosted three community workshops to solicit feedback from the community and to provide updates on the design process so far. The team will continue to hold meetings with individuals and groups to discuss ideas and concerns as designs are further developed.
The project team sends regular updates via a Listserv, and they are also posted below:
- October 2023 Listserv Update
- November 2022 Listserv Update
- August 2022 Listserv Update
- July 2022 Listserv Update
- January 2021 Listserv Update
- December 2020 Listserv Update
- March 2020 Listserv Update
- December 2019 Listserv Update
- November 2019 Listserv Update
- May 2019 Project Introduction Mailed to Stakeholders
Stakeholder Engagement Opportunities
- Sign up for Listserv updates – email [email protected]
- Check this webpage for updates
- Attend Acme/Van Zandt Flood Control Subzone Advisory Committee Meetings
- The project team will continue one-on-one outreach with landowners and stakeholders directly associated with the project, including soliciting feedback at each design stage (30%, 60%, 90%)
Workshop #3 September 15, 2022
- Workshop Announcement
- Workshop #3 presentation slides
- Workshop #3 summary report
- Highest Ranked Alternative Figure
Workshop #2 January 26, 2021
- Meeting announcement
- Workshop #2 meeting recording
- Workshop #2 presentation slides
- Workshop #2 summary report
- Conceptual alternatives figures
- Alternatives hydraulic modeling results figures
Workshop #1 June 27, 2019
- South Fork Nooksack River Fish Camp (Ts’eq) Reach Project Fact Sheet (updated August 2022)
- Project area map
- Fish Camp Preliminary Design Report
- Engineered Log Jams on the South Fork Nooksack River Fact Sheet (September 2022)
- FEMA maps
- Whatcom County Flood Hazard Mitigation Assistance
- FEMA Floodplain and Stream Restoration Fact Sheet
- WRIA 1 Salmon Recovery Program Website
- The Nooksack River: Nature of Change (video)
- Restoring the Nooksack River (short video)
- Climate Change in the Nooksack River
- South Fork Nooksack River Temperature TMDL
- South Fork Nooksack Reach Assessments
- WA State Dept. of Ecology Floodplains by Design (see Floodplains by Design page)
- WA State Salmon Recovery Funding Board
- EPA National Estuary Program Puget Sound Funding
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
- NOAA Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund
1. Nuxw7íyem: This is the name for the South Fork Nooksack River in the Lhéchelesem, Nooksack language. The word translates to “always clear water” because this fork of the Nooksack River is non-glacial and is clear much of the year (Richardson, 2011).
2. Ts’éq: This is the name for the Creek and Fish Camp at Acme in the Lhéchelesem, Nooksack language. The word translates to “fermented salmon eggs” since there was a fish camp at this location, its likely salmon eggs were fermented at the camp. The stretch of river near Acme was fished for spring chinook from natural log jams with spears and dip nets (Richardson, 2011).
Citation: Richardson, Allan, and Brent Galloway. Nooksack Place Names: Geography, culture and language. UBC Press, 2011.
More Nooksack words can be found here: https://nooksacktribe.org/word