Hundreds of smelt wash ashore in Liberty Bay

Most were found near the site of a recent sewage leak.

POULSBO — Hundreds of dead smelt were discovered, washed ashore at the northern end of Liberty Bay around noon May 29. State and local officials couldn’t provide any answers as to what killed the fish either.

Most of the smelt were found in an area near the mouth of Dogfish Creek where late last month 2,000 gallons of sewage leaked from a manhole before entering the waterways and prompting the county to issue a no-contact advisory for the area. The spill affected Dogfish Creek from Highway 305 to the northern end of Liberty Bay, including all shoreline in Fish Park.

Poulsbo city officials said the clog was caused by a blockage from construction debris from nearby development.

Initially, it was reported that the fish were young salmon, however biologists with the Suquamish Tribe said the fish actually appeared to be smelt, an important food source for migrating salmon. Biologists said the occurrence did not initially appear to be due to normal ecological cycles in the bay, though a number of other causes may be attributable to the die-off.

In a recent email exchange with the North Kitsap Herald, Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson applauded the city’s work to improve the health of Liberty Bay in recent years, in turn allowing for the Suquamish Tribe to resume shellfish harvesting in their usual and accustomed grounds on the bay’s shores.

“The city of Poulsbo has worked very hard to clean up Liberty Bay, spending millions of dollars in storm water improvements and improvements to our sewer systems to prevent accidental spills,” Erickson said in her email. “It was one of my highest priorities when I became mayor in 2010. We had dozens of meetings with the health district, the county, the tribe, state department of ecology to move this process forward.”

Erickson said the bay is cleaner than it’s been in four decades, “The bay is much cleaner. Cleaner than it was in 1970.”

As for the dead smelt, Erickson did not expect that the culprit of the floating fish would be enough keep the tribe from harvesting shellfish in the area, explaining that the amount of work that went in to restoring the health of the bay, likely couldn’t be undone overnight.

_________

This story was first published in the Kitsap Daily News. Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at ntwietmeyer@soundpublishing.com.

More in Northwest

King County Councilman Reagan Dunn sent a letter to the FBI asking for them to help investigate Allan Thomas (pictured), who is under investigation for stealing more than $400,000 of public funds and skirting election laws in an Enumclaw drainage district. Screenshot from King 5 report
King County Council requests report on special districts in wake of fraud allegations

Small, local special districts will face more scrutiny following Enumclaw drainage district case.

Gov. Jay Inslee shakes hands with Dinah Griffey after signing Senate Bill 5649 on April 19. The law revises the statute of limitations for sex crimes. Photo by Emma Epperly, WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Hits and misses from Legislature’s 2019 session

New laws target vaccines, sex crimes and daylight savings; losers include sex ed and dwarf tossing bills.

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to protesting nurses on April 24 at the State Capitol Building in Olympia. Inslee indicated he would sign the bill for meal and rest breaks into law if it passes both chambers. Photo by Emma Epperly, WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Lawmakers approve ‘nursing bill’ for mandatory meal and rest breaks

Nurses show up in Olympia to support bill, protest Sen. Walsh’s remarks.

Colton Harris-Moore, known as the “Barefoot Bandit,” as seen on a GoFundMe page where he sought to raise $125,000 for flight training. (GoFundMe)
‘Barefoot Bandit’ asks judge to shorten his supervised release

Colton Harris-Moore says travel restrictions are holding back a lucrative public-speaking career.

USPS district manager Darrell Stoke, Janie Hendrix and Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) unveil the plaque honorarily naming the Renton Highlands Post Office as the “James Marshall ‘Jimi’ Hendrix Post Office” on Friday, April 19. Photo by Haley Ausbun
Highlands Post Office honors Jimi Hendrix

Postal Service connected Hendrix to family during his Army service.

Walkers rest amid the trees at Island Center Forest on Vashon Island, which is part of King County. Many trees around Western Washington are struggling, including Western hemlock on Vashon, likely from drought stress. Photo by Susie Fitzhugh
King County forests are facing new challenges

Hot, dry summers are stressing native tree species in Western Washington.

Washington State Capitol Building. Photo by Emma Epperly/WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Legislation targets rape kit backlog

WA has about 10,000 untested kits; new law would reduce testing time to 45 days

Federal Way resident competes for top 20 spot on ‘American Idol’

Todd Beamer senior Myra Tran previously won “The X-Factor Vietnam” in 2016.

Photo by Kayse Angel
What’s next for the I-405 master plan?

New express toll lanes from Renton to Bellevue are coming soon.

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Natural Resources/Kari Greer
Western Washington faces elevated wildfire risk in 2019

Humans cause majority of fires in state

Courtesy of kingcounty.gov
King County approves bargaining agreement with 60 unions

Employees will receive wage increases and $500 bonus.

File photo
Law enforcement oversight office seeks subpoena power

Organization has been unable to investigate King County Sheriff’s Office.