On December 5 The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Puget Sound Partnership announced the award of more than $42 million in grants to organizations around the state for projects that restore and protect salmon habitat. Four projects in Whatcom County were awarded grants totaling more than $1.6 million.
“Salmon are an important part of both Washington’s culture and economy,” Governor Jay Inslee said. “Healthy salmon populations support thousands of jobs in fishing, hotels and restaurants, seafood processing, boat sales and repair, charter operations, environmental restoration and more. I am very pleased with the work of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and its efforts to fund projects that help our economy and assure future generations of Washingtonians can enjoy the return of wild salmon.”
Lummi Nation was awarded a grant of $84,723 to restore and build Chinook habitat in the Skookum reach of the South Fork Nooksack River. The Nooksack Indian Tribe was awarded $361,172 for a restoration project in the Black Slough reach of the South Fork Nooksack River and $665,808 for a project along the Farmhouse reach of the North Fork Nooksack River. All three of those projects will utilize man-made logjams to provide vital resting habitat for Chinook salmon, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The fourth grant recipient in Whatcom County was Whatcom Land Trust, which was awarded $518,840 to buy 100 acres and more than a mile of riverfront property along the South Fork Nooksack River to set aside for conservation.
Funding for the grants comes from the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and the sale of state bonds. In addition, the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund provided $24.4 million, which was jointly approved by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Puget Sound Partnership, in coordination with local watersheds, for projects that will help restore Puget Sound.
Salmon populations in Washington have been declining for generations. As Washington grew and built its cities and towns, it destroyed many of the places salmon need to live. In 1991, the federal government declared the first salmon as endangered. By the end of that decade, salmon 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.
“Without these grants, Washington’s salmon populations would continue to decline until nothing was left,” said David Troutt, chair of the state funding board. “That’s the trajectory we were on before salmon were placed on the federal Endangered Species Act list. In most areas of the state, fish are increasing or remaining stable, while in some important areas, fish populations are decreasing. Habitat is the key to salmon recovery and continuing to fund these important projects will help to move all populations in a positive direction.”
Local watershed groups, called lead entities, selected projects to ensure that the projects are based on regional salmon recovery plans that were approved by the federal government. Then regional salmon recovery organizations and the Salmon Recovery Funding Board reviewed each project to ensure they will help recover salmon in the most cost-effective manner.