Documentary film shows community unites to save the Lake Sammamish Kokanee

“Spawning Grounds”, a documentary film directed by Nils Cowan, tells the story of the Lake Sammamish Kokanee, shows Sammamish’ natural gems normally hidden from the average resident.  

Independent film

The film will be initially released in independent theaters in the communities around Lake Sammamish and in Seattle. These ticketed events (with proceeds supporting Kokanee efforts) will be followed by free screenings in libraries, community centers, and other community spaces, as well as online and in schools. 

“We are also planning to submit the film to several film festivals nationwide,” said Cowan. The film is currently about midway through post-production, currently looking at the end of September for the release of the final film.

“Spawning Grounds” – Trailer

Cowan told The Comment that he had worked on a documentary report for National PBS about gold dredgers operating in Salmon-bearing waters in Washington and was asked to come to the annual Earth Day Kokanee celebration in Issaquah. He there witnessed school children releasing fry and talked to many involved with the efforts to restore these fish, including Tribal leaders with the Snoqualmie and Muckleshoot Tribes. He realized quite quickly that there was a deep and valuable story taking place in this watershed that ties into what many rapidly urbanizing communities with natural areas are facing.

NatGeo, PBS, others

Cowan has been producing, writing and directing documentaries and factual programs for almost  20 years. Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, he spent a lot of time in the Rockies as a kid, then moved to the DC area where he first began making films for outlets like the National Park Service, National Geographic and PBS.  He moved to Seattle 10 years ago to further pursue films about nature and science, and to help give voice to historically marginalized communities. 

“The key message of this story for me is that the only way to save important natural places and the plants and animals that depend on them is to put aside our differences and work together to engage and educate,” says Cowan. “It has been an incredible adventure to document the natural beauty and community spirit of this dynamic and diverse region and to see the democratic process in action. Private landowners, progressive developers, newly naturalized citizens and Indigenous groups have been among the most inspirational people I’ve been able to work with. Thank you for the amazing support and trust over the past two years. I look forward to sharing the film with you!”


The film has been funded by a crowdfunding campaign and sizable contributions from private citizens and the Snoqualmie Tribe’s charitable donations program. The project still needs about $3000 to complete the post production stage and to be able to release the film by late September or before.

Donations can be made on the film’s website:

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7 thoughts on “Documentary film shows community unites to save the Lake Sammamish Kokanee

  1. I’d love to donate. But, leave politics outta the movie. Remember, this problem has been going long before Trump moved into office. Can we blame Obama? No! It’s our fault. Let’s put aside the Democratic and Republican differences. You do that and I’d be happy to donate the remaining 3k.

    • Dan, the Kokanee Work Group is an outgrowth of the group of scientists and electeds that wrote the threatened salmon recovery plan some 10 to 15 years ago. I was on that forum, WRIA 8 (Water Recovery Inventory Area 8) when a group of Sammamish citizens came to one of our meetings and gave public comment, encouraging us not to forget “the little red fish” (the native run of kokanee in Lake Sammamish). The KWG was impressed by this impassioned concern for the kokanee and its habitat, and included it under the salmon recovery plan as “wild card” projects.
      However, many of us felt that quick attention was needed and the Kokanee Work Group was founded. There was no time to wait for federal protection of the species through endangered or threatened designation. This group has engaged the school children and the broader community in the recovery effort and is very deserving of grassroots support. Your offer to contribute to the wonderful documentary would be greatly appreciated and has no strings tied to national politics.

      • Don Gerand is correct. This documentary about the valiant community effort to save our iconic Little Red Fish is worthy of our financial and personal support. If you have any doubts, I suggest viewing the 5-minute video clip which can be seen at

  2. The Sammamish City Council is a training ground, where people apply with no experience to screw up the quality of life. No infrastructure in place . One has to wonder !

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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