TAHOLAH, WA (6/3/13)–Work being done on the Upper Quinault River is a powerful example of environmental stewardship benefiting the economy, and the state legislature needs to step up to support it, says Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation. “There is interconnection between a healthy environment and a sustainable economy wherever you go, but on the Upper Quinault everything is lined up to truly make a difference,” she said.
In an email letter addressed to Governor Inslee and to all legislators today, Sharp reminded the state’s lawmakers to support a budget proviso for $2.8 million in the Senate Capital Budget which would support ongoing work on the Upper Quinault, and the Tribe has made one of its top priorities (Department of Natural Resources budget, PSSB 5035, New Section 3235).
“This proposal is important to the coastal region in many respects. The investment will be highly job intensive in a region in desperate need of employment opportunities—and those jobs will be sustainable and environmentally friendly,” said Sharp. One of the primary objectives of the effort is to restore habitat which is key to the survival and restoration of the famed Blueback Salmon population. To date, since the year 2000, the Quinault Tribe has invested more than $5 million in Blueback restoration which includes the upper Quinault River work, lake fertilization, monitoring and supplementation. The current federal ask is more than $5 million. Of the state request, $2.5 million would be used to install engineered logjams over a five mile stretch of the river and $300,000 would be used for the Lower Queets/Clearwater and Quinault Riparian Forest restoration and enhancement (improvement of riparian forest habitat through invasive species control, instream habitat enhancement, off channel habitat enhancement, and replanting native trees to aid forest regeneration).
“The work being done on this project is highly professional and well engineered. It is the result of government-to-government and tribal and non-tribal coordination. That is another great thing about this effort. We are demonstrating, once again, that things get done when we work together. Everybody stands to benefit and everyone is involved,” said Sharp.
“We have made this request of the legislature several times this session. It is a very reasonable request which will benefit the state and its citizens, economically and environmentally, many times over. Everyone has stepped up to the plate. We’re simply encouraging the state to do the same. Given the unstable nature of the state budget process, we want to impress the importance of this project on the Governor and legislators. This is one they cannot leave behind,” she said.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation published a report, paid for by the Quinault Tribe, in 2005, stating that “the upper Quinault River and its salmon habitats will not heal on their own. Restorative intervention is required.” In response to that conclusion, the great importance of the Blueback Salmon to the Tribe’s culture, heritage and economy, and the inherent risks to continued viability of that species, Quinault produced and published the Salmon Habitat Restoration Plan – Upper Quinault River. The plan is a comprehensive, science-based approach to restore the river, including its floodplains, floodplain forests, and salmon habitat. The plan, which the Tribe and others in the area are following, applies engineered logjams and floodplain forest restoration methods modeled after natural floodplain forest developmental patterns and river channel habitat forming processes found in river valleys of the west side of the Olympic Mountains. Among other things, the logjams are designed to mimic old growth trees to create and protect river floodplain and side channel salmon habitat and foster the development of mature, self-sustaining conifer floodplain forests.
The project areas proposed for use of the funding include approximately 3.6 miles of mainstem river channel and 520 acres of existing floodplain. The project, if funded and constructed in its entirety will yield approximately 7.7 miles of protected and/or restored mainstem river and side channel salmon habitat, approximately 860 acres of new floodplain, and reestablish approximately 537 acres of mixed conifer-deciduous floodplain forest.
“So much is at stake here. Dozens of jobs. Economic stability. Generations of critically important Blueback runs. We truly hope the Governor and legislators are listening,” said Sharp.