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Kirkland chef restores stream to make it habitable for salmon and sees 'amazing' results

Restaurant owner Holly Smith teamed up with a nonprofit to add wood to the shoreline and remove invasive plants to create a habitat where fish can thrive.

KIRKLAND, Wash. — A Kirkland restaurant owner noticed a lack of fish in the stream outside her business, so she stepped up to make the necessary changes and said the impact was instant.

Holly Smith is the chef and owner of the Italian restaurant Café Juanita. For 22 years, the restaurant has sat along a bend in Juanita Creek, which is part of the Cedar Lake watershed. She said in all that time, she’s seen one fish swim through the stream.

She decided to fix that and partnered with the King Conservation District and nonprofit Adopt-a-Stream to pull out invasive plants and create a habitat where fish could thrive.

“The moment that Adopt-a-Stream left, they left in the morning on a Thursday, we came out and there were 15 to 20 fish lined up. I was like 'This is not real, someone had stocked the stream for me,'” said Smith.

Ashley Allan with the King Conservation District said two-thirds of the shoreline is privately owned, so individual owners need to do what they can to help salmon populations.

“We really try to encourage people to take action and we try to step in and offer resources and assistance when we can,” Allan said.

This project was years in the making, due in part to the small window of time when stream work can be done. Residents can only work on waterfronts between July 15 and Sept. 15 every year.

Smith’s project totaled about $100,000 and the team was able to find grants to pay for the costs. Allan said small-scale projects can be cheaper and still impactful.

Both the King Conservation District and Adopt-a-Stream encourage people to reach out to see how they can help maintain local streams.

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