History of Tacoma

Celebrating Our Salmon Habitat

Every year, anglers come from around the world to fish the best waters in the world, the Puget Sound, in search of Sockeye, Chinook, and Coho salmon. The history of salmon fishing is wide and deep here in greater Federal Way and the Pacific Northwest, dating back to early Native American tribes, who relied on the abundant supply as a major food source, as well as a commodity of trade. As one of Washington’s most important natural resources, salmon is widely celebrated as part of Federal Way’s culture.

Today, in a partnership between Federal Way Public Schools and the city of Federal Way, 35 elementary, middle, and high schools are helping students raise and release salmon each year as part of the “Storming the Sound with Salmon” program.

“When Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) was no longer able to continue the region’s Salmon in the Classroom program in 2011, City of Federal Way Surface Water Management (SWM) staff worked with Federal Way Public Schools to develop Storming the Sound with Salmon (SSS) program,” says Theresa Thurlow, surface water manager for the city of Federal Way. “This program integrated storm water education and pollution prevention into the science curriculum through the rearing of Coho salmon, from eggs to the fry stage.”

Having students learn about the importance of both salmon and storm water on the environment, stakeholders are helping to keep the program going.

“With the assistance of a grant from Department of Ecology and volunteers from the Salmon Education Alliance, staff was able to bring 12 schools into the program in 2012, and we have been adding schools each year,” says Thurlow. “This year, with a grant received from King County Waste Treatment Division, we were able to implement the program into all public schools within Federal Way.”

The program culminates in early May, when students attend the annual salmon release, an exciting field trip that helps to preserve and promote salmon populations.

“The students are taken through various learning stations within the West Hylebos Wetlands Park on their way to and from the release point. A few of the more popular stations have been salmon dissection by Issaquah Salmon Hatchery volunteers and a visit by an owl and a turkey vulture, courtesy of the West Sound Wildlife Shelter,” Thurlow says. “We try to have stations that provide an interesting and educational relationship demonstrating the importance of clean storm water and pollution prevention.”

One of the salmon release supporters is Lakehaven Water and Sewer District, which is responsible for provision of potable water service and wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal within an approximate 34 square mile corporate area (greater Federal Way).

“The district provides water to a residential population of approximately 115,000 people and an important water resource for Lakehaven is groundwater that underlies our area,” says Stan French, water operations manager at Lakehaven. “Groundwater plays a major role in the salmon release event because groundwater-fed streams and rivers are among the most important fish habitats.”

At the end of the day, the students storm the sound by releasing their fish into Hylebos Creek at West Hylebos Wetland Parks.

“Releasing their fish down a chute into the creek is the highlight of their time at the release event,” says Thurlow. “Most students are excited, although some are sad to see their fish released.” By Cathy Cuthbertson and Brooke Payne

Planted with Pride

Winery Taking Root in Federal WayWhile Washington state may be known for its delicious apples, grapes are beginning to cause a buzz in the greater Federal Way area too. What started as a dream in the late 2000s, came to fruition years later as the winemakers behind Abbe Vineyard and Winery set in motion plans to open their own business.

“We loved the property and my wife and I purchased the estate in 2006,” says Vilnis Kleper. “Originally, the property was called Spring Valley Ranch. A friend and I started talking about what to do with the land and we decided to make it a winery. We began planting and that is how we got started winemaking.”

Just down the road from West Hylebos Wetlands Park, Abbe Vineyard and Winery grows grapes for crafting satisfying bottles of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Viognier and more. While these wines are products of careful planting and precise care, the name behind the winery is rooted deep in the region’s history.

“There was already a Spring Valley winery in Washington state, so we couldn’t name it after that. My wife researched the origins of Hylebos Creek and discovered it was named after a priest, Father Hylebos,” says Kleper. “We came up with Abbe, which means abbot in French. We believe in the same philosophy of French winemaking, and, with the history of the area and Father Hylebos, we had a name.”

Father Hylebos came to what is now Federal Way from his native home in Belgium in 1870. Once he arrived, Hylebos didn’t settle for just living here. He built hospitals, Indian schools and opened homes for orphans and women. With such a dramatic impact on the region, the winery wanted to pay homage to an important figure on the grounds that attracted him to the area and now where beautiful varietals are created.

Being next door to the wetlands, the winery witnesses the annual salmon fry release each year.

“From our property, over 10,000 salmon are released into Hylebos Creek by our local Indian fishery,” says Kleper. “After a five-year journey, some salmon return to spawn and keep nature’s cycle continuing.”

With such pride for the region’s history and strong support of the local community, the winery is enjoying all the perks of making wine in Federal Way. By Sarah Lancaster