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San Juan County gets $405,830 from state's $30 million in salmon recovery grants

Submitted by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office.

The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board has announced the award of nearly $30 million in grants to organizations around the state to help bring salmon back from the brink of extinction.

“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.”

The $405,830 designated for San Juan County will fund two projects.

The first project, Neighborhood Conservation Easement Program, is a unique approach in partnership with the local land trust (San Juan Preservation Trust) to develop a model to create conservation easements on multiple properties.

"As far as we can tell, this approach has never been done before, so we anticipate that this is a pilot project that will create a mechanisms that other jurisdictions would also be interested in using," said Recreation and Conservation Office communications manager Susan Zemek.

The Fishing Gear Removal project will fund removal of the last remaining documented derelict fishing nets in the San Juans. This is the final push to cap a multi-year effort to clean up the legacy derelict nets in the San Juans.

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.

Grants were given to organizations in the following counties:

Asotin County............................. $132,160

Chelan County....................... $1,296,713

Clallam County....................... $2,447,641

Clark County............................... $925,383

Columbia County...................... $265,720

Cowlitz County........................ $1,080,806

Grays Harbor County................ $787,869

Island County.......................... $1,010,949

Jefferson County.................... $1,803,600

King County............................ $1,829,624

Kitsap County............................. $366,735

Kittitas County............................ $585,813

Klickitat County.......................... $718,400

Mason County......................... $1,624,289

Okanogan County..................... $656,287

Pacific County............................ $485,989

Pend Oreille County.................. $360,000

Pierce County......................... $2,970,987

San Juan County...................... $405,830

Skagit County.......................... $2,298,337

Skamania County........................ $47,306

Snohomish County................ $2,497,397

Thurston County........................ $473,714

Wahkiakum County.................. $361,505

Walla Walla County............... $1,131,220

Whatcom County.................... $1,500,119

Yakima County.......................... $508,887

Multiple counties................... $1,210,450

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.

“Salmon recovery does more than just help salmon, it also helps the many businesses dependent on healthy fish populations,” said Hover, who also is an Okanogan County commissioner. “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 www.rco.wa.gov.

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