9 Pierce County organizations receive $2.9M salmon recovery grants

The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board recently announced the award of nearly $30 million in grants to organizations around the...

The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board recently announced the award of nearly $30 million in grants to organizations around the state to help bring salmon back from the brink of extinction. In Pierce County, approximately $2.9 million was awarded to nine organizations:

Nisqually Land Trust — $330,530 — Protecting the Mashel River shoreline

The Nisqually Land Trust will use this grant to buy 29 acres with Mashel River shoreline, expanding the block of protected shoreline to 250 acres. The purchase will protect the land permanently and ensure available habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead trout, both of which are listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act, in an important channel-migration zone. The Mashel River is the largest salmon-bearing tributary to the Nisqually River, near Eatonville. The land trust will contribute $58,328 in conservation futures. More information about this project is online at http://www.rco.wa.gov/prism/ProjectSnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=11-1531 .

Nisqually Land Trust — $225,000 — Protecting the Middle Ohop Creek

The Nisqually Land Trust will use this grant to protect 38 acres and nearly a half-mile of riverbank along middle Ohop Creek. The land trust will use a voluntary land preservation agreement known as a conservation easement to protect the land permanently. It also will plant the riverbank to improve habitat. This stretch of Ohop Creek supports spawning areas for Chinook salmon, which are listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act, as well as coho and pink salmon. Protection of this property will allow for continued channel migration in this section of the Ohop valley, near Eatonville. The land trust will contribute $76,050 from a local grant and donated land. More information about this project is online at http://www.rco.wa.gov/prism/ProjectSnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=11-1530 .

Nisqually Land Trust — $400,000 — Protecting the Ohop Valley

The Nisqually Land Trust will use this grant to buy for permanent protection about 114 acres in the lower Ohop Valley. This acquisition will make it possible to proceed with the next phase of the channel realignment and valley restoration of lower Ohop Creek, and will protect permanently the bluffs and forest adjacent to the Ohop Creek floodplain. The previous phase occurred on land trust property immediately upstream and restored more than 100 acres of riverbank and wetland and recreated more than 1 mile of stream channel. This protection project would allow for an additional 2 miles of new stream that would connect the current phase with the intact areas near the confluence with the Nisqually River. The 89-year-old landowner will retain a life estate to live in and use the home and buildings on a small portion of the property and will serve as a volunteer site steward. The property directly adjoins a land trust property and the Nisqually Mashel State Park. The purchase will create a substantially larger protected habitat block in the Ohop Valley. The land trust will contribute $270,000 in conservation futures. More information about this project is online at http://www.rco.wa.gov/prism/ProjectSnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=11-1538 .

City of Orting — $689,226 — Building the Calistoga setback levee

The City of Orting will use this grant to remove 1.5 miles of an existing levee and construct a new levee away from the existing river channel to reconnect about 53 acres of Puyallup River floodplain and an additional 46 acres of side-stream habitat. Historically, the Puyallup River would meander through the entire floodplain, a natural river process. This created excellent salmon habitat with multiple river channels separated by sand and gravel bars. In the 1930s, a man-made levee system disconnected the river from its floodplain and prevented natural meandering, isolating critical salmon habitat. Since construction of miles of levee on the river and development of the floodplains, spawning Chinook numbers have been reduced from 42,000 to 1,300. The new levee will reestablish natural riverine processes, reconnect a portion of the Puyallup River to its natural floodplain and restore salmon habitat damaged by human construction. Additionally, structures constructed of logs will help promote the braiding of the river as well as provide refuge for salmon species. This levee will benefit Chinook and bull trout, both of which are listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act. Orting will contribute $138,080. More information about this project is online at http://www.rco.wa.gov/prism/ProjectSnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=11-1506 .

Pierce County — $489,656 — Beginning restoration of the south fork of the Puyallup River

Pierce County Surface Water Management will use this grant to construct a major side channel in the left overbank floodplain of the Puyallup River. This is the first phase of a larger project to reconnect and restore the floodplain of the south fork of the Puyallup River for salmon and other fish species. The proposed major side channel is nearly a half-mile long. Several logjams will be built and placed in and along the side channel and its banks. Two logjams will be placed in the Puyallup River near the upstream end of the side channel connection point. The logjams slow the river, creating pools, riffles and places for fish to rest and hide from predators. They also will create more types of habitat in the river and make the floodplain function more naturally. A portion of the grant will be used for additional hydraulic modeling and engineering design work for the major side channel. Pierce County will contribute $86,410. See more information about this project. http://www.rco.wa.gov/prism/ProjectSnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=11-1465 .

Pierce County — $393,225 — Restoring the floodplain at Fennel Creek

Pierce County Surface Water Management will use this grant to design, get permits, remove a revetment and plant trees in a floodplain along the Puyallup River. Fennel Creek provides important spawning and rearing habitat to multiple species of salmon and has been degraded by past agricultural practices. Both the Puyallup River and Fennel Creek need restoration. Crews will remove a rip rap revetment, allowing the banks to slowly erode and add flow diversity to the Puyallup River for salmon. Crews also will plant trees in the floodplain. Work will be done at, and along, the right bank of the Puyallup River at mile 18. The project will benefit Chinook and steelhead, both of which are listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act, as well as bull trout, chum, coho, cutthroat and pink salmon. Pierce County will contribute $69,392. See more information about this project. http://www.rco.wa.gov/prism/ProjectSnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=11-1508 .

Pierce County Conservation District — $55,250 — Eradicating Nisqually knotweed

The Pierce County Conservation District will use this grant to inventory and eradicate Japanese knotweed from the Nisqually River basin. The conservation district will complete surveys of the Nisqually River and its tributaries, begin to eradicate all knotweed found in the basin beginning at the furthest upstream occurrence, replant native vegetation, and inform residents in target communities about knotweed and other invasive plants. The district will survey 75+ river miles of the Nisqually and its tributaries in Pierce, Thurston and Lewis Counties and treat about 150 acres. The Nisqually River and its tributaries are important spawning and rearing reaches for Nisqually River Chinook, coho, chum and steelhead. Japanese knotweed significantly degrades habitat for fish along the river. The conservation district will contribute $9,750. See more information about this project. http://www.rco.wa.gov/prism/ProjectSnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=11-1533 .

South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group — $60,000 — Removing a road over the Clearwater River

The South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group will use this grant to remove more than a quarter-mile of road, remove fill and surfacing material and grade the former road bed on the Clearwater River. This project expands the length of road being removed by Hancock Forest Management, which already is abandoning a section of road in the upper project reach. Hancock Forest Management will remove a section of road between two washouts surrounding Mineral Creek. This grant expands the area of road to be removed to include more than a quarter-mile section upstream of Mineral Creek to the confluence of the Clearwater River with Byron Creek. Removal of the road will connect up to 10 acres of floodplain habitat including a 5-acre wetland that provides valuable rearing habitat. The enhancement group will contribute $60,000 in donations of cash. See more information about this project. http://www.rco.wa.gov/prism/ProjectSnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=11-1463 .

South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group — $328,100 — Removing Penrose Point State Park bulkhead

The South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group will use this grant to remove a creosote bulkhead, rip rap armor and fill along a bluff-backed beach in Penrose Point State Park on Carr Inlet. The 700-foot-long bulkhead with rip rap toe protection has damaged the habitat and habitat forming processes in the park. Removal of the bulkhead will improve the beach for rearing and foraging salmonids, specifically Chinook, salmon, which are listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act, as well as coho, chum and pink salmon. The enhancement group will contribute $57,900 from a grant and donated labor. See more information about this project. http://www.rco.wa.gov/prism/ProjectSnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=11-1459 .

A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife study in 2006 pegged the economic impacts of commercial and recreational fishing in Washington as supporting an estimated 16,374 jobs and $540 million in personal income. This new round of grants is expected to provide more than 300 jobs during the next four years. The projects will reconnect rivers and streams, replace failing pipes that block fish passage and replant riverbanks with the goal of improving places salmon use to reproduce and grow on their way to and from to the ocean.

“These grants do two things: They provide needed money for local organizations to help repair damaged rivers and streams and protect the most pristine areas,” said Don “Bud” Hover, chair of the state funding board. “They also create jobs. They will put people to work improving the environment and restoring something that is important to Washington’s economy: salmon. Salmon recovery does more than just help salmon, it also helps the many businesses dependent on healthy fish populations. There are many families that rely on salmon, from your mom-and-pop tackle shops to your large commercial fishing fleets. They all need salmon and trout populations to be healthy and harvestable.”

Salmon populations in Washington have been declining for generations. In 1991, the federal government declared the first salmon, Snake River sockeye, as endangered. By the end of that decade, populations had dwindled so much that salmon and bull trout were listed as threatened or endangered in three-quarters of the state. Those listings set off a series of activities including the formation of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board to oversee the investment of state and federal funds for salmon recovery.

Local watershed groups, called lead entities, are local consortiums that include tribes, local governments, nonprofits and citizens all working together to spearhead local salmon recovery efforts. They encourage and review project proposals and make decisions about which projects to forward to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for funding. The projects are based on regional recovery plans, which are approved by the federal government. Individual projects are reviewed by regional salmon recovery organizations and the state’s technical review panel to make sure each project will help recover salmon in the most cost-effective manner.

“This local, state and federal partnership has made Washington a national model in salmon recovery,” Hover said. “This process ensures that we are funding the projects that the local citizens want and that scientists agree will do the most to recover salmon.”

Funding for the grants comes from the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and from the sale of state bonds. In addition, nearly $11.6 million is dedicated to projects in Puget Sound, as part of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s initiative to restore the health of Puget Sound.

“Salmon recovery is key to restoring Puget Sound,” said Gerry O’Keefe, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, which is charged with developing a plan for improving the health of Puget Sound. “If we can improve the rivers, streams, lakes and other water bodies so we have healthier salmon, we’ll also have healthier places for other fish, wildlife and humans. These grants are an important step in righting past damage done to the environment.”

“We owe a big thank you to our congressional delegation for working hard to ensure the salmon recovery funding stays in the federal budget,” Hover said. “Salmon recovery simply couldn’t happen at the scale that is needed without the federal funding.”

Information about the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Recreation and Conservation Office is available online at http://www.rco.wa.gov .

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