Sunday, June 23, 2024

State Board Awards Nearly $76 Million in Grants to Recover Salmon

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OLYMPIA–The Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board today announced the award of nearly $76 million in grants across the state to help ensure the survival of salmon in Washington.

The board also approved an additional $58 million in grant requests for 55 projects through the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration program once funding is approved by the Legislature in 2023. If approved, the combined funding would be the largest amount of money directed at salmon recovery in a single year since the board was created 23 years ago.

The grants that were funded today went to 138 projects in 30 of the state’s 39 counties. The grants will pay for work to restore salmon habitat, including repairing degraded habitat in rivers, removing barriers blocking salmon migration and conserving pristine habitat.

“This is incredibly important work,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “The projects will help restore salmon across the state. That means more salmon for our endangered orcas, more jobs for people and industries that rely on salmon and improved habitat that can better protect us from floods and the effects of climate change.”

Descriptions of Grants

The following Grant amounts were awarded in the counties below.

Chelan County: $2,389,987

Okanogan County: $552,254

“These grants are a driving force for salmon recovery in Washington,” said Jeff Breckel, chair of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. “Without this funding, we likely would lose our salmon. And that’s a Washington I wouldn’t want to live in.”

Funding for the grants comes from the sale of state bonds, a federal grant from the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, and funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The grant recipients also invest in salmon recovery and will be contributing more than nearly $59 million in matching resources, such as materials, staff labor, and donations.

Helping Orcas

Nearly $8.6 million of the grants awarded today will be spent on two projects that target increasing Chinook salmon populations, the food preferred by endangered orcas. In the first project, the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians will receive $4.9 million to move a dike and excavate river channels to allow water to flow more freely in 230 acres of the Zis a Ba estuary in Snohomish County. The estuary is used by Chinook salmon to grow before they head out to the ocean. For the second project, the Yakima County Flood Control Zone District will receive $3.6 million to expand the floodplain of the Yakima River. The project will set back levees to reestablish side channels, reconnect wetlands, and restore the floodplain along 5 miles of the Yakima River near Yakima Sportsman State Park. The work will give Chinook salmon access to places where the water is calmer for spawning and rearing.

Why Are Salmon in Trouble?

As Washington’s population grew, the number of salmon dwindled. By 2000, the federal government had declared wild salmon and steelhead species in nearly three-fourths of the state as threatened or endangered. The Legislature created the Salmon Recovery Funding Board in 1999 to determine how best to distribute state and federal funding to recovery projects.

Why is Recovery Important?

Salmon are a keystone species upon which many other animals rely. One report documented 138 species of wildlife, from whales to flies, that depend on salmon for their food. In addition, salmon fishing is important to Washington’s economy. Commercial and recreational fishing in Washington is estimated to support 16,000 jobs and $540 million in personal income.

Investing in salmon recovery projects also helps local businesses. Every $1 million spent on forest and watershed restoration generates between 15.7 and 23.8 jobs. About 80 percent of that funding stays in the county where the project is located, helping many rural communities. Finally, salmon recovery projects help Washington State uphold treaty-reserved fishing rights for Indian tribes and ensure salmon are present and available for harvest.

How Projects are Chosen

Washington has a unique approach to salmon recovery. Projects are selected by lead entities, which are watershed-based groups that include tribes, local governments, nonprofits, and citizens. The projects are based on federally approved regional salmon recovery plans. Lead entities vet projects through citizen and science committees. The projects then are reviewed by regional organizations and submitted to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for funding. Regional salmon recovery organizations and the board review each project for cost-effectiveness and to ensure they will benefit salmon.

“Thousands of people across the state have been working for years to put these projects together,” said Megan Duffy, director of the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, which supports the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. “This is truly work that starts in our local communities.

This local process makes sure that we are funding projects important for saving salmon and important to residents in their neighborhoods. It’s a great example of people working with local, state, and federal agencies to make a difference for salmon.”

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