Puget Sound Partnership, EPA award $700,000 for salmon recovery efforts

Salmon recovery efforts throughout Puget Sound will receive a $700,000 boost, thanks to grants awarded by the Puget Sound Partnership.

Each of the Sound’s 14 watersheds, including the San Juan Islands, will receive a $50,000 grant — issued as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program – to implement salmon recovery efforts.

“The salmon recovery work happening in the watersheds is the cornerstone of broader Puget Sound recovery efforts,” said David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, which officially became the region’s lead salmon recovery organization Jan. 1.

“The Partnership is looking at the watersheds’ collaboration on salmon recovery as a model for the recovery of the entire Puget Sound ecosystem. Our success depends on this kind of approach. Everyone who has a stake in the Sound must be part of the solution.”

The money is part of a $20 million federal appropriation for EPA’s research and remedial program, which addresses the overall health of the Puget Sound ecosystem. U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., was instrumental in obtaining that funding.

“I am excited that we were able to secure these funds and that they are being used to continue critical local efforts to restore Puget Sound and recover salmon,” Congressman Dicks said in a press release.

The $50,000 grants will allow watershed groups the ability to perform the core functions of local salmon recovery implementation, including:

— Selection, review, prioritization and implementation of restoration and protection efforts;

— Education and outreach;

— Tracking and measuring project implementation progress;

— Adaptive management of recovery plans;

— Coordinating local citizen and technical groups; and

— Generating operating, programmatic and capital funds.

“It is encouraging that the Puget Sound Partnership and the EPA realize the strength of the partnerships built to restore Puget Sound,” said Clallam County Commissioner Steve Tharinger, chairman of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and a member of the Partnership’s Ecosystem Coordination Board.

“Watershed groups contribute creativity, knowledge and motivation to implement lasting, community-supported solutions for the complex challenges facing salmon and the Sound.”

San Juan County Councilman Kevin Ranker, who takes office as state senator in January and is former co-chairman of the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council, added, “In these tough economic times, we need to affirm our commitment to recover salmon in Puget Sound. These grants are timely and critical for local communities. This support goes a long way toward protecting and restoring Puget Sound by maintaining the dedicated, trained people who work daily to recover our threatened and irreplaceable salmon.”

Only 22 of at least 37 historic chinook populations remain in Puget Sound, according to Puget Sound Partnership. Those that still exist are at only 10 percent of their historic numbers, with some down lower than 1 percent. The decline in salmon is closely associated with the decline in the health of Puget Sound.

Salmon recovery is guided by implementation of the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Plan, adopted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association in 2007. That plan, as well as the individual watershed recovery plans within it, can be found on CLICK HERE.

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