Of all Washington counties, Jefferson won the most grant money from the state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board this year: more than $3 million for local salmon recovery projects.
The Board awarded $26.1 million in grants for projects across the state aimed at bringing salmon back from the brink of extinction.
Much of that work is taking place in Jefferson County, where the Salmon Recovery Funding Board granted a total of $3,606,748 to three different groups: the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, Jefferson County Public Health and the Nature Conservancy.
Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement
The Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group was awarded $2,797,458 to design an estuary crossing on the Duckabush River.
The group will use the grant money to remove and replace a causeway on U.S. Route 101, reconnecting the Duckabush River’s north channel. It will also pay for the purchase of property in the area, which will make the project possible.
According to the group’s project description, redesigning the crossing of the highway across the lower Duckabush River will allow natural processes to occur across the area and will reconnect the river and tidal habitats within the Duckabush Estuary.
The river is used by Chinook and chum salmon and steelhead trout, all of which are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group received two other grants from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board this year: a $369,913 grant to buy land on the Big Quilcene River and a $191,250 grant to remove invasive knotweed along multiple rivers in Jefferson County.
The group will purchase 30 acres of floodplain in the Moon Valley Reach downstream of the State Route 101 bridge across the Big Quilcene River. This will allow for future restoration work to reconnect the floodplain habitat with the Big Quilcene River and improve water quality and habitat for chum salmon and steelhead trout.
The group’s knotweed removal project will take conservationists 44 stream miles along the lower sections of Union, Tahuya, Dewatto, Dosewallips, Big and Little Quilcene Rivers, and Big Anderson and Big Beef Creeks to remove invasive species that are threatening Chinook and chum salmon. The group will plant native trees and bushes along the shoreline, helping strengthen the riparian zone.
Jefferson County Public Health
The Jefferson County Public Health department was awarded a grant of $138,527 to purchase two acres of property along the floodplain of the Big Quilcene River. Along with purchasing the land, the project will include removing structures and planting native trees and shrubs along the shoreline to protect the habitat for fish. These plants will help keep soil from entering the water where it can smother fish eggs incubating in the spawning gravel. The river is home to both chum salmon and steelhead trout, both of which are listed as threatened species.
The Nature Conservancy received a grant of $226,701 to remove two derelict fish trap and weir structures—used at one time to catch fish, but now detrimental to the health of the salmon population—and one culvert from the Clearwater River in the Clearwater Forest Reserve in Jefferson County. The grant will also go toward assessing other culverts that pose as barriers to migrating coho salmon in that river.
Culverts are pipes or other structures that carry water under roads and often block fish migration because they are too steep, too tall or too small to allow fish to pass through easily.
The Nature Conservancy also plans to thin 60 acres of forests along the river, which will help improve forest health. Thinning is a process of selectively removing trees so that the undergrowth and health of other trees in the forest improve. The Conservancy will also survey and treat invasive weeds on about 10.5 acres in the Clearwater Forest Reserve, helping connect more than one mile of habitat in tributaries and wetlands.
20 years of salmon recovery
Since the Salmon Recovery Funding Board’s creation 20 years ago, grants awarded by the board have helped correct 713 barriers to migrating fish, giving salmon access to 2,082 miles of habitat, conserved 537 miles of streams, restored more than 48,500 acres of shorelines, estuaries and wetlands, and cleared more than 17,700 acres of land of invasive species.
“The work being done across the state on salmon recovery is critical,” said Gov. Jay Inslee according to a press release from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. “These grants for on-the-ground projects will help us restore salmon to healthy levels that allow for both protection and a robust fishery. We must do everything we can to restore this beloved Washington icon and help orcas, which are starving due to lack of salmon, before it is too late.”
The grants create benefits for local communities like in Jefferson County, said board chair Phil Rockefeller.
“Since the board’s beginning, its grants have created or sustained more than 4,000 jobs and contributed to the state’s economy as grant recipients spend the money for products and services,” he said.
The Salmon Recovery Funding Board awarded grants to organizations for 96 projects in 28 of the state’s 39 counties. Grant recipients will use this funding to remove barriers that prevent salmon from migrating to and from the ocean, increase the types and amount of salmon habitat and conserve pristine areas.