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$300,000 in grants awarded for salmon habitat restoration, planning in the San Juan Islands

Top photo: University of Washington graduate student Joel Breems conducts sediment coring for a study on a beach at Thatcher Bay, Blakely Island. Bottom photo: Removing wood waste from the beach will eliminate toxic sulfide contamination and restore forage fish spawning habitat. - Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group
Top photo: University of Washington graduate student Joel Breems conducts sediment coring for a study on a beach at Thatcher Bay, Blakely Island. Bottom photo: Removing wood waste from the beach will eliminate toxic sulfide contamination and restore forage fish spawning habitat.
— image credit: Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group

Almost $300,000 in grants for salmon habitat restoration have been awarded to two organizations in the San Juan Islands.

The money is part of $12 million for 39 projects awarded Tuesday by the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board. All told, the projects are designed to improve the health of Puget Sound waterways, conserve critical shorelines and help recover salmon populations.

Friends of the San Juans will receive $159,999 to develop an action plan for wild salmon recovery in San Juan County.

"The Friends of the San Juans will use this grant to develop restoration and protection projects," the grant announcement stated. "Since 2001, Water Resource Inventory Area 2 has concentrated on completing assessments to identify important habitats in the San Juans, and to better understand how, when and where salmon are using county waterways. The next step is to synthesize all existing data and update the county’s salmon recovery plan. This grant will enable the Friends group to engage local and regional salmon experts to identify and prioritize locations and restoration and protection actions to conserve and improve habitat for salmon and salmon prey. The work will result in a major redrafting of the county’s salmon recovery work program. The Friends group will contribute $28,240 in donated labor. Funding for this grant comes from the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund."

The Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group will receive $141,379 to restore the beach at Thatcher Bay on Blakely Island.

"The Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group will use this grant to eliminate toxic sulfide contamination by removing wood waste, and restore forage fish spawning habitat on the beach," the grant announcement stated. "Wood waste from a historic mill was deposited on the beach, covering 1.8 acres. Native sediment suitable for forage fish spawning will be brought in after dredging is complete. The salmon group will contribute $24,950 in donated materials. Funding for this grant comes from the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund and state funds."

Of the 39 projects, Funding Board chairman Steve Tharinger said, “These grants will do a number of things. They will put people to work repairing damage to salmon habitat, and they will help us conserve land important for salmon recovery. Without grants like these, there would be no hope that we ever would recover salmon from the brink of extinction.”

Grant funding comes primarily from the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration fund, which was created in 2007 as part of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s intiative to restore Puget Sound. Additional funding comes from state salmon recovery funding and two federal programs – the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Puget Sound Critical Stock program for addressing the needs of listed fish in Puget Sound.

“Projects funded by the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration fund, with local government, non-profit, tribal, and federal matches, are the centerpiece of implementing the recovery plan for Puget Sound,” said David Dicks, director of the Puget Sound Partnership, a state agency created to lead the efforts to restore Puget Sound. “The fund has already enabled implementation of more than 150 high priority projects around Puget Sound to reconnect river floodplains, restore estuaries and remove barriers to fish passage. Further, these projects have created much needed jobs.”

The grants range from $35,000 to more than $1.3 million and cover a variety of activities, including fixing barriers to fish migration, restoring estuaries and floodplains, rerouting stream channels and protecting shorelines.

“These projects were developed by local communities and reviewed by a state panel of scientists. It helps us ensure we are funding the best projects from a scientific and engineering perspective and those with the most community support around the Puget Sound,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the grants. “The communities believe in these projects and are contributing more than $7.5 million in matching resources to ensure these projects get done.”

The latest grant continues work being done to restore the beach at Thatcher Bay. In December 2009, Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group received a $309,521 grant for removal of wood waste and associated toxic sulfide contamination from the Thatcher Bay shoreline. Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group contributed $246,992 in donated materials.

In December 2008, the group received a $43,350 grant to obtain permits and prepare for dredging and removal of the wood waste. The group contributed $7,600 in labor on a sediment analysis and a plan for wood waste removal.

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