The city of Bellingham operates a water diversion dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River, approximately 20 miles east of the city of Bellingham. The city has diverted water from the Middle Fork since 1962 to supplement its main water supply source, Lake Whatcom. Water from the Middle Fork is diverted intermittently, mostly during winter and spring high flows. From the river, the water flows through a 1.6 mile long tunnel and 9.5 mile long pipe into Mirror Lake and then into Anderson Creek, which empties into Lake Whatcom. The lake is the drinking water reservoir for over 100,000 Bellingham and Whatcom County residents.
No fish passage facilities were required when the diversion dam was constructed. The dam obstructs access to approximately 16 miles of river and tributary stream habitat for three anadromous Endangered Species Act listed Puget Sound species: Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout, as well as other native resident fish species.
In 2000, the city was approached by the Nooksack Indian Tribe and Lummi Nation, who offered to work together to restore fish passage at the Middle Fork diversion dam. Since signing a formal partnership agreement with the tribes and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (the WRIA 1 Fisheries Co-Managers) in 2002, the city and its project partners have considered several options for a project that would provide fish passage and maintain the city’s ability to divert water for municipal water supply needs.
These initial efforts led to the completion of project studies and evaluation of various design alternatives. In 2017, the project was re-initiated when American Rivers joined the effort as a formal partner, with funding provided by Paul G. Allen philanthropies for project management and coordination, as well as design and construction funding match.
For more information, visit https://www.cob.org/services/environment/restoration/middlefork/Pages/middle-fork-background.aspx.
Middle Fork Nooksack River Fish Passage Project
The Middle Fork Nooksack River fish passage project will restore access to approximately 16 miles of pristine spawning and rearing habitat in the upper Middle Fork for three Puget Sound fish species: spring Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout.
Project elements and related benefits include moving the point of diversion just upstream of the existing location to eliminate the need for the dam, dam removal to restore habitat connectivity, and installation of fully compliant fish screens for fish protection.
This project is a collaborative effort between the city of Bellingham, Lummi Nation, Nooksack Indian Tribe, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and American Rivers, with funding from Paul G. Allen philanthropies, the city of Bellingham, and the Resources Legacy Fund. Partners are consistently engaged throughout the planning process in Partner Advisory Committee meetings and Design Review Team meetings. The city of Bellinghm welcomes feedback from additional interested parties, especially in response to the monthly project updates.
For more information, visit https://www.cob.org/services/environment/restoration/middlefork.