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County reels in $1.14 million in salmon grants

The Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board recently announced an award of $42.8 million in grants to protect and restore salmon populations across the state.

“Salmon are an important part of Washington’s economy and culture,” said Steve Tharinger, chairman of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. “These grants are not only good for salmon, the environment and the people of Washington, but they are good for the economy.”

The grants go toward projects big and small in 27 counties. Awards range from $17,000 to $1.7 million.

Island County received $1,143,187, while nearby Skagit County garnered $5,844,363, King County $2,644,814 and San Juan County $1,458,776.

Island County’s grant will be split between four projects. Two projects, under the guidance of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, will go toward improvements to the Skagit Bay shoreline. The trust will spend $147,000 for a restoration project, including completing preliminary designs and preparation of construction permit applications to repair habitat-forming processes at the Shorecrest lagoon and along Dugualla Bay on North Whidbey Island. The repairs would create about 6.4 acres of additional habitat for Chinook salmon rearing.

The Land Trust’s second Skagit Bay Shoreline project, at a cost of $290,000, includes the purchase of 39 acres with nearly half a mile of Skagit Bay waterfront. The acquisition will protect the near-shore habitat for salmon. The land trust, in turn, will contribute $386,000 in conservation futures’ funds in addition to a private grant that was received in October to fully fund the land purchase.

The Wild Fish Conservancy was awarded $171,650 to assess restoration projects in Deer Lagoon on South Whidbey to evaluate the feasibility and impact of multiple restoration strategies near Admiralty Inlet. The goal of the study is to increase the amount and quality of salt marsh habitats open to juvenile salmon. The conservancy will use the information to develop a partial design for a restoration project.

The smallest Island County grant went to the Swan Lake Watershed Preservation Group, in the amount of $24,862 to reconnect west Whidbey Island and Swantown Lake. The lake is a valuable and unique ecosystem that is threatened by development in the adjacent Oak Harbor watershed and consists of more than 100 acres of coastal marsh with a freshwater stream. Island County purchased the lake and surrounding property in 1999 for wetland and wildlife habitat, storm water and flood control, and low-impact parks.

The restoration group has joined with the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group to determine how to provide access into and out of Swantown Lake for young salmon species, cutthroat trout and steelhead.

Currently, an old, dysfunctional tide gate system blocks fish access. The restoration group with provide a partial design for the most promising option and contribute $4,387 in donated labor.

The federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund provides the grants, which are matched by state funds from the sale of bonds, according to a press release. Congress and the Washington Legislature approved funding for these grants earlier this year.

“Local watershed groups develop these projects based on regional recovery plans and with the support of regional salmon recovery organizations,” Tharinger said. “The projects are then checked by the state’s technical review panel to make sure they will help recover salmon in the most cost-effective manner.”

The local and state partnership made Washington state a national model in salmon recovery, he said.

Visit www.rco.wa.gov for more information about the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Recreation and Conservation Office.

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