State awards $18 million in grants to recover salmon

  • Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 12:53pm
  • News

The Salmon Recovery Funding Board has awarded $18 million in grants to organizations around the state to repair rivers, remove barriers blocking fish passage, and replant riverbanks in an effort to recover salmon from the brink of extinction.

The grants, given annually, went to 91 projects in 29 of the state’s 39 counties. In addition, the funding board approved Puget Sound projects, requesting $38 million, to be funded from the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund, which awaits Legislative approval next year.

“These grants are the lifeblood of our salmon recovery efforts in Washington State,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “They fund the core of our efforts and attract $37.5 million from other sources. These grants, along with the hard work invested by thousands of people working in our state to save salmon, have gone a long way to slowing the decline of salmon.”

Salmon on the Brink

As Washington’s population grew, its salmon dwindled. In 1991, the federal government declared the first salmon in the Pacific Northwest as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. That listing was followed by a flood of additional listings in the late 1990s. By the end of the century, wild salmon had disappeared from about 40 percent of their historic breeding ranges in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California. In Washington, the numbers had dwindled so much that salmon and steelhead were listed as threatened or endangered in nearly three-fourths of the state. Today, 17 species of salmon, steelhead and bull trout in Washington have been put on the Endangered Species Act list. The Legislature created the Salmon Recovery Funding Board in 1999 to determine how best to funnel state and federal funding into recovery projects. No new species of salmon have been added to the Endangered Species Act since 2007.

Descriptions of Grants

Grants were awarded in the following counties.

Asotin County Projects$270,000

Benton County Projects$305,964

Chelan County Projects$999,362

Clallam County Projects$863,864

Clark County Projects$696,654

Columbia County Projects$792,593

Cowlitz County Projects$1,451,790

Garfield County Projects $282,850

Grays Harbor County Projects$634,725

Island County Projects$217,645

Jefferson County Projects$425,767

King County Projects$932,75

Kitsap County Projects$971,727

Kittitas County Projects$632,311

Klickitat County Projects$264,436

Lewis County Projects$189,140

Mason County Projects$323,091

Okanogan County Projects$856,438

Pacific County Projects$900,796

Pend Oreille County Projects$342,000

Pierce County Projects$1,151,095

San Juan County Projects$277,742

Skagit County Projects$1,143,676

Skamania County Projects$792,362

Snohomish County Projects$965,320

Thurston County Projects$176,039

Walla Walla County Projects$173,757

Whatcom County Projects$620,103

Yakima County Projects$546,000

Both the grants approved and those awaiting legislative funding will accomplish the following:

• Remove 20 barriers to fish migration

• Open more than 45 miles of habitat to salmon

• Restore more than 217 miles of stream

• Restore nearly 292 acres of estuary

• Conserve nearly 64 miles of stream

“For the past 20 years, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board has been awarding grants for on-the-ground projects around the state,” said Phil Rockefeller, board chair. “These projects are making a difference, not only to salmon, but to the other animals that rely on salmon for food, such as orcas, and to the people that rely on them for their livelihoods. We also appreciate and value salmon as part of our heritage and want to ensure they will survive for future generations.”

Commercial and recreational fishing in Washington is estimated to support 16,000 jobs and $540 million in personal income. Recreationally, an estimated $1.5 billion is spent annually on fishing and shellfishing in Washington, supporting many rural families and businesses.

Salmon are a keystone species, upon which many other animals rely. One report documented 138 species of wildlife, everything from whales to flies, that depend on salmon for their food.

Investing in salmon recovery also has economic benefits. 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. Overall, salmon recovery funding since 1999 has resulted in more than $1 billion in economic activity.

“Personally, I can’t image a Washington without salmon,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which provides support to the funding board. “Without these grants, I think that’s what we’d see. I’m grateful that Congress and the state Legislature have continued to fund these important projects.”

How Projects are Chosen

Projects are selected by lead entities, which are watershed-based groups that include tribes, local governments, nonprofit organizations 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.