“Being Frank” More Salmon Habitat Protection Needed

 

By Lorraine Loomis, Chair, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

 

We’ve seen some incredible salmon habitat restoration projects the past few years, but there’s a big difference between restoring habitat and protecting it.  We must remember that restoration without protection does not lead us to recovery.

The Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula continues to heal itself after the largest dam removal effort in U.S. history. Two dams on the river had blocked salmon migration and denied Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s treaty fishing rights for more than 100 years.

In another big project, the Tulalip Tribes and partners recently returned tidal flow to the 400-acre Qwuloolt Estuary. The estuary was drained and diked for farming in the early 1900s, blocking access to important salmon habitat.

Both were huge, costly projects that took decades of cooperation to accomplish. Every habitat restoration project – large or small – contributes to salmon recovery. But if we are going to achieve recovery, we must do an equally good job of protecting habitat, and that is not happening.

Treaty Indian tribes are seeking federal leadership to help turn this tide.

Salmon recovery efforts cross many federal, state and local jurisdictions, but it is the federal government that has both the legal and trust responsibility to recover salmon and honor tribal treaty-reserved rights. Through our Treaty Rights at Risk initiative, we are asking the federal government to lead a more coordinated and effective salmon recovery effort.

One way is to ensure that existing federal agency rules and regulations do not conflict with salmon recovery goals.

An example is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ jurisdictional boundary they use for permitting shoreline modifications. The Corps regulates construction of docks and bulkheads in marine waters, and uses a high water mark based on an average of each day’s two high tides to determine its jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

But the Clean Water Act specifies the protection boundary should be the single highest point that an incoming tide can reach.

In Puget Sound, the Corps’ boundary is 1.5 to 2.5 feet below the highest tide. When you apply that to 2,000 miles tidelands, a large portion of important nearshore habitat is left unprotected.

That needs to change. We need to be protecting more habitat, not less.

Another example is agricultural easements issued by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service that can block salmon habitat restoration efforts.

Federally funded agricultural easements pay landowners to lock in agricultural land uses permanently, regardless of whether those areas historically provided salmon habitat and need to be restored to support recovery.

The federal government needs to change the program to ensure agricultural easements do not restrict habitat restoration and other salmon recovery efforts.

These are just a couple of examples of how federal actions can conflict with salmon recovery goals to slow and sometimes stall our progress.

We know that habitat is the key to salmon recovery. That’s why we focus so much of our effort on restoring and protecting it. Many amazing restoration projects are being accomplished, but the more challenging task of protecting that habitat is falling short.

We must do everything we can to protect our remaining habitat as we work to restore even more. One way to do that is to harmonize federal actions and make certain they contribute effectively to recovering salmon, recognizing tribal treaty rights and protecting natural resources for everyone.

Swinomish Tribe’s Restoration Improves Fish Passage Beside Farmland

Swinomish environmental director Todd Mitchell observes a self-regulating tide gate that is mostly under water in the Smokehouse tidelands.

Swinomish environmental director Todd Mitchell observes a self-regulating tide gate that is mostly under water in the Smokehouse tidelands.

By Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

 

Farming interests in Skagit County often seem at odds with salmon habitat restoration, but an ongoing project by the Swinomish Tribe aims to show that it doesn’t have to be that way.

The tribe owns the land known as the Smokehouse tidelands along the Swinomish Channel south of the Swinomish Casino and Lodge. Historically, the land was part of a system of channels that served as estuarine rearing habitat for Skagit River salmon. When the Skagit Valley was settled, the tidelands were diked and drained for agricultural use.

Since 2005, the tribe has restored tidal flow and improved fish passage to the channels by replacing four traditional flap gates with self-regulating tide gates. In addition, three culverts have been replaced by bridges, and several have been removed.

“The big advantage is for fish, but the tide gates also have improved drainage capacity,” said Todd Mitchell, Swinomish environmental director. “As more water comes in, more water goes out. We don’t have the ponds of standing water that you see on other farmland after heavy rain.”

Fifty-foot buffers have been planted between the channels and the farmland. Some of the land will remain in agricultural use, with the tribe leasing it to farmers and monitoring for saltwater intrusion.

“Continued farming provides income for the Swinomish Tribe,” said Steve Hinton, restoration director for the Skagit River System Cooperative, the natural resources extension of the Swinomish and Sauk-Suiattle tribes. “The goal is to see that agriculture and salmon can not only survive, but thrive in the same space.”

The long-term plan is for riparian corridors, tidally connected channels and estuarine wetlands to exist alongside agricultural production.

“Resolving the differences between these competing uses of the resource are essential to significant and meaningful restoration of chinook rearing habitat across the Skagit delta,” Hinton said.

Culvert replacement costs loom as a budget problem for lawmakers

By Christopher Dunagan, Kitsap Sun Puget Sound Blogs 

While funding for Washington’s “basic education” remains a potential budget-buster, some legislators are beginning to worry about a $2.4-billion financial pitfall involving culverts and salmon streams.

 

Culverts that block significant habitat are represented by dots on the map. Washington State Department of Transportation
Culverts blocking significant habitat are represented by dots on the map of Western Washington.
Washington State Department of Transportation

 

In 2013, a federal judge ordered Washington state to replace nearly 1,000 culverts that block or impede fish passage along Western Washington streams. The $2.4-billion cost, as estimated by the Washington State Department of Transportation, amounts to about $310 million per biennium until the deadline of 2030.

Nobody has even begun to figure out how to come up with that much money, although the WSDOT has pretty well spelled out the problem for lawmakers.

In the current two-year budget, the state is spending about $36 million to replace fish-passage barriers, according to Paul Wagner, manager of the department’s Biology Branch. That’s not including work on major highway projects.

WSDOT is asking to shift priorities around in its budget to provide $80 million per biennium for fixing culverts.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee’s 12-year transportation plan calls for increasing revenues to provide money for various improvements throughout the state, including $360 million for culverts spread over the 12-year period.

 

BEFORE, where a 5-foot round culvert carried Twanoh Falls Creek under Highway 106. Washington Department of Transportation
BEFORE, a 5-foot round culvert carried Twanoh Falls Creek under Highway 106 into Hood Canal.
Photo: Washington State Department of Transportation

Even if all that funding comes to pass, the state would only make it about halfway to the goal set by the court when the 2030 deadline passes.

Although funding is a serious matter, the effect of fixing the culverts sooner rather than later could boost salmon habitat and help with salmon recovery, transportation officials acknowledge.

Out of 1,982 fish barriers identified in the state highway system, more than three-quarters are blocking “significant” habitat — defined as more than 200 meters (656 feet). That’s from a fact sheet called “Accelerating Fish Barrier Correction: New Requirements for WSDOT culverts” (PDF 4.6 mb).

 

AFTER, a 20-foot bottomless culvert allows stream to flow more naturally Washington State Department of Transportation
AFTER, a 20-foot bottomless culvert allows the stream to flow more naturally.
Photo: Washington State Department of Transportation

 

As of 2013, the agency had completed 282 fish-passage projects, improving access to nearly 1,000 miles of upstream habitat. Another 10 projects were added in 2014.

Because the lawsuit was brought by 21 Western Washington tribes, the court order applies to 989 Western Washington culverts, of which 825 involve significant habitat. The case is related to the Boldt decision (U.S. v Washington), which determined that tribes have a right to take fish, as defined by the treaties, and that the state must not undermine the resource.

The court adopted a design standard for culverts known as the “stream simulation” model, which requires that the culvert or bridge be wider than the stream under most conditions and be sloped like the natural channel.

In an effort to gear up for culvert work, the Department of Transportation established four design teams to prepare plans for 34 fish-passage projects for the next biennium and scope out another 75 projects. State officials hope that by having teams to focus on culverts and bridges, design work will become more efficient. Agencies also are working together to streamline the permitting process.

In Kitsap County, the Highway 3 culvert over Chico Creek presents a real challenge for the department, Paul Wagner told me. Everyone recognizes the importance of Chico Creek, the most productive salmon stream on the Kitsap Peninsula. But replacing the undersized culvert with a new bridge would cost more than $40 million — more than the entire budget for culverts in the current biennium.

 

A culvert under Kittyhawk Drive was removed last summer next to the Highway 3 culvert. Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall
A culvert on Kittyhawk Drive was removed last summer next to the Highway 3 culvert, which continues to affect the flow of Chico Creek.
Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall

 

“There are a lot of culverts,” Wagner said, “and our challenge is that those on the state highway system are more complicated and involved.”

Not only are the state highways the largest, he said, but they usually cannot be shut down during construction. State highways typically have more complicated utilities and drainage systems, and work may require buying new right of way.

Those are all issues for Chico Creek, which was rerouted when the highway was built in the 1960s. The stream was directed into a new channel parallel to the highway, crossing under the roadway at a 90-degree angle.

The new design would restore the original channel, crossing under the road at a steep angle that makes for a longer bridge. The new route also could involve changing the interchange at Chico Way.

“That project is definitely one we need to get at,” Wagner said, “but it eats up a lot of the money we need for other projects.”

Removal of a county culvert under Kittyhawk Drive has increased interest in removal of the state highway culvert, which lies immediately upstream of the newly opened channel where the county culvert was removed. See Kitsap Sun(subscription), Aug. 26, 2014.

The Legislature will determine how much money will be allocated to culverts and to some extent which ones get replaced first. New taxes could be part of the equation for the entire transportation budget, a major subject of debate this session.

Alaska Natives and First Nations Unite to Fight Mining Threat to Salmon Habitat

Tongass Conservation SocietyThe headwaters of the Unuk River, where a company called KSM wants to build a humongous open-pit mine for cold, copper and other metals.

Tongass Conservation Society
The headwaters of the Unuk River, where a company called KSM wants to build a humongous open-pit mine for cold, copper and other metals.

 

Paula Dobbyn, Indian Country Today

 

It has become an all-too-familiar story: Pristine waters. Salmon habitat. Sacred significance. Mining.

The Unuk River watershed, straddling the border between British Columbia and Alaska, is on track to become ground zero in a struggle to stop the world’s largest open-pit mine, Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM). The fight against it is uniting First Nations and Alaska Natives as they battle to preserve stewardship of the pristine region. And it is just one of five massive projects proposed for the region.

If KSM secures the financing and the regulatory go-ahead, the giant mine would turn 6,500 acres of pristine land into an industrial zone that would generate more than 10 billion pounds of copper and 38 million ounces of gold, according to a project summary. As with any large mine, it would employ a hefty workforce—in this case mostly Canadians—and create taxes and royalty payments for Canada. But it would also produce a slew of waste. And that’s what critics say downstream Alaska communities stand to take on: none of the economic benefits but much of the environmental risk.

With its remote headwaters in British Columbia, the Unuk River is one of the world’s most prolific salmon waters. An international river, the Unuk flows into neighboring Southeast Alaska and its temperate rainforest, the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest, a place of towering coastal mountains, tidewater glaciers and fog-shrouded islands. The Unuk empties into Misty Fjords National Monument, an attraction for cruise ship passengers viewing glaciers, bears and whales that dot Alaska’s Inside Passage. The Unuk, known as Joonáx̱ in Tlingit, supports large runs of king salmon, a cultural icon prized by commercial, sport and subsistence fishermen alike.

“The consequences for salmon runs on both sides of the border could be devastating, yet Alaskans would see none of the economic benefit,” wrote National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Michael Fay in a 2011 letter to British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, signed by nearly 40 other scientists.

Seabridge Gold, the mine developer, expects KSM to generate more than two billion tons of acidic waste rock called tailings, a byproduct of the mining process than can be lethal to fish. The tailings would be held behind two huge dams—each taller than the Hoover dam—built in the headwaters of the Nass River, one of British Columbia’s most important salmon rivers.

Because KSM is located in sensitive fish habitat, it has raised the ire of Southeast Alaska tribes, fishermen and some Canadian First Nations. They joined forces in early April, forming a cross-border working group to develop a unified strategy to protect their interests.

It’s not just KSM that worries them. KSM is one of more than a dozen mines planned for northern B.C., including five located in salmon-bearing watersheds that arise in Canada and drain into Alaska. The British Columbia government is encouraging the mines’ development, offering tax breaks and relaxed environmental rules. Also spurring development is the construction of a new power line extending electricity into the northwest corner of the province, bordering Alaska. The transboundary projects include Red Chris, Schaft Creek, Galore Creek and Tulsequah Chief. The international rivers they could affect are the Taku, Stikine and Unuk, some of Southeast Alaska’s top salmon rivers.

“These projects could not be in a worse location. Salmon is our traditional food. If anything happens to them, we would be in a world of hurt,” said Ketchikan fisherman and tribal leader Rob Sanderson Jr.

Fishing, seafood processing and tourism are key economic drivers in Southeast Alaska. The seafood industry produced $641 million worth of fish in 2011, which created 17,500 jobs and $468 million in wages. A million visitors tour the area every year, spending about copy billion.

Tribes have passed numerous resolutions of concern about how KSM and the other transboundary mines could potentially contaminate the region, including their traditional fishing grounds. Recently a delegation of tribal leaders and fishermen flew to Washington, D.C.  to lobby for State Department intervention. They delivered a letter signed by 40 businesses, groups and individuals asking for help.

Alaska’s congressional delegation got the message. Shortly after the Alaskans flew home, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, along with Congressman Don Young, contacted the office of Secretary of State John Kerry by letter asking him to get involved to protect Alaska’s interests. Because the mines are located in Canada, Alaska tribes feel they have less influence over the outcome than if they were on U.S. soil.

“It’s happening in a foreign country. We don’t have a lot of control over it,” said Sanderson. “They don’t even have to consult with Alaska tribes.”

The U.S. Environmental Protect Agency has raised issues regarding the KSM project, mirroring the tribes’ concerns. The U.S Interior Department has urged Seabridge Gold to consult with Alaska tribes regarding fishing and clean water.

Recently Seabridge sent its vice president for environmental affairs to Alaska to participate in a tribal meeting on Prince of Wales Island near Ketchikan regarding KSM. Seabridge’s Brent Murphy told the Juneau Empire that “the overwhelming design philosophy for the KSM project is the protection of downstream environments and that is ensuring protection also for Alaskans.”

On its website, Seabridge notes that KSM has undergone extensive review by environmental and technical experts over the past five years to see that salmon and other wild resources are protected.

But Seabridge’s assurances have done little to allay skepticism on the U.S. side. Since the meeting on Prince of Wales in late March, the newly elected president of Alaska’s largest tribe, the Juneau-based Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, has elevated the matter.

“This is a direct threat to the lifestyle and culture of our tribes’ 29,000-plus members,” said Richard Peterson, tribal president.

At Peterson’s urging, the Central Council adopted a resolution giving Southeast Alaska’s 19 federally recognized tribes the green light to work with First Nations to try to slow the development of the transboundary mines.

“We need a collective call to arms,” said Peterson.

Not all B.C. First Nations oppose the KSM mine or the other transboundary projects. The Gitxsan and Nisga’a Nations support the mine’s development. But others, including the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs, who live downstream from where the KSM waste facility would be located, are opposed.

“Nass River fish are critical for the food security of the Gitanyow,” said Kevin Koch, a fish and wildlife biologist with Gitanyow Fisheries Authority. “KSM poses a major threat to the Gitanyow way of life.”

Koch noted that the Gitanyow have constitutionally protected aboriginal rights to fish in the Nass. Seabridge maintains that any ill effects from mine waste on Nass River salmon would be minimal.

Peterson is unconvinced.

“I think John Kerry should be sitting in my office talking to me right now,” he said. “We need face-to-face consultation on this. We’re a sovereign nation.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/05/02/tribes-and-first-nations-unite-halt-bc-mine-threatens-salmon-habitat-154681?page=0%2C0

Squaxin Island Tribe, land trust, working together to restore former golf course

Photo by the state Department of Ecology.

Photo by the state Department of Ecology.

From the Squaxin Island Tribe’s natural resources blog:

The Capital Land Trust and the Squaxin Island Tribe are working to bring back salmon habitat and protect an important shellfish growing area by restoring a former golf course on Oakland Bay. The land trust recently purchased the 74-acre Bayshore Golf Course, which includes the mouth of Johns Creek and over a thousand feet of Oakland Bay shoreline.

The tribe and the land trust will remove a 1,400 foot dike, restoring the Johns Creek estuary and important marine shoreline. “Taking the dike out will provide salmon with additional acres of saltwater marsh to use as they migrate out to the ocean,” said Jeff Dickison, assistant natural resources director for the tribe..

Eventually, the golf course fairways will also be replanted with native vegetation, restoring a streamside forest that helps provide habitat to salmon.

Environmentalists fighting Otter’s dam projects

Feb 14 2014 Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho –

Environmentalists are worried about new and expanded dams on southwestern Idaho rivers after lawmakers voted to inject millions into studying water storage projects pushed by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Idaho Rivers United Thursday formally opposed what could be $1.3 billion in dams on the Boise and Weiser rivers.

A day earlier, the House voted unanimously to spend $3.5 million to complete initial studies.

In a press release, however, the Boise-based group touted 650 signatures on a petition urging lawmakers to scuttle the projects and instead work on healthy river flows, natural habitat and water quality.

 On the Weiser River, Otter wants a $500 million dam.

He’s also pushing an $800 million expansion of Arrowrock Dam on the Boise.

Arrowrock Dam, Idaho

Arrowrock Dam, Idaho

The bill funding studies of the projects now is in the Senate.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Conservation Group Turns Christmas Trees Into Salmon Habitat

When submerged in a coastal stream, an old Christmas tree offers young salmon protection from predators and new potential food sources. | credit: Courtesy of Tualatin Valley Trout Unlimited

When submerged in a coastal stream, an old Christmas tree offers young salmon protection from predators and new potential food sources. | credit: Courtesy of Tualatin Valley Trout Unlimited

Cassandra Profita, Earth Fix

Before you kick your dying Christmas tree to the curb, consider this: Members of the conservation group Trout Unlimited would love to turn that tree into fish habitat.

On three Saturdays in January, the Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited will be collecting Christmas tree donations at two locations in the Portland metropolitan area. Later, they’ll place the trees into a side channel of the Necanicum River near Seaside, where they will provide predator protection and food sources for baby coho salmon.

The group is entering the third year of a program called Christmas for Coho. It’s is one of many groups across the country turning old Christmas trees into fish habitat. Similar projects have taken place in California, Missouri, Ohio and Louisiana.

Tualatin Valley Trout Unlimited board member Mike Gentry helped place Christmas trees into a coastal stream the first year of Christmas for Coho – back in 2012. He said he saw baby coho swimming to the site as soon as the trees hit the water.

“Even while we were still working in there placing the trees, we could see many little bitty fish gathering around us and coming in under the trees,” he said. “We weren’t even done with the project.”

Untitled
Christmas trees in a coastal stream. Photo by Michael D. Ellis

Once submerged in water, Christmas trees provide places for microorganisms to grow and attract other critters that baby salmon can eat before they head out to sea.

“They’re like magnets for fish,” said wetlands restoration consultant Doug Ray of Carex Consulting, who is also a member of the Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited. “The fish will stay under the cover of the branches during the day and come out at night to feed.”

The Pacific Northwest could be using recycled Christmas trees all over the place to help salmon, Ray said. Within days of putting the trees under water, a brown algae starts growing on the needles. Other critters flock to the branches to eat the algae, and a new food web is born.

“They’re covered within a couple of weeks,” said Ray. “It’s like a Chia pet. Just add water.”

Ray and Gentry are hoping that the Christmas for Coho program will encourage more people to start turning Christmas trees into salmon habitat.

“If everyone in Oregon took their Christmas trees and put them into a stream instead of chipping them into mulch, it would be a really valuable gift to salmon,” said Ray.

The Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited will be collecting trees on Jan. 4, 11 and 18th from 9 am to 4 pm at two locations: Royal Treatment Fly Shop, 21570 Willamette Dr., in West Linn; and Northwest Fly Fishing Outfitters, 10910 NE Halsey, in Portland.

Tulalip Tribes partner with others to restore salmon habitat

Brett Shattuck, forest and fish biologist for the Tulalip Tribes, stands beside the wood debris that was installed during this fall’s restoration of Greenwood Creek to make it a better salmon habitat.— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

Brett Shattuck, forest and fish biologist for the Tulalip Tribes, stands beside the wood debris that was installed during this fall’s restoration of Greenwood Creek to make it a better salmon habitat.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

By Kirk Boxleitner, Marysville Globe, December 30,2013

STANWOOD — The coastal stream at 18510 Soundview Drive NW in Stanwood began as a “degraded straight ditch,” according to Brett Shattuck, forest and fish biologist for the Tulalip Tribes, but the gulch came to reclaim its old name of Greenwood Creek in the wake of its restoration as a salmon habitat this fall.

“We spent years studying all the coastal streams in the Whidbey basin, looking for which ones were used the most by juvenile chinook salmon, and we found the highest number of them here,” said Shattuck, who reported that Tulalip Tribal Natural Resources staff counted 280 chinook, out of a total of 600 juvenile salmon that also included coho and other species, during a single day’s electrofishing survey. “Even though this property is owned by Snohomish County and in a public right-of-way, it was an ideal restoration site, so we spent the past year pursuing that. Our neighbors were very supportive, and the county was willing to work with us and the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation to find a strategy that was beneficial to the county, the local residents, the Tribes and the fish.”

Shattuck explained that crews pulled back the banks of the stream to widen it, cleared out invasive species such as blackberry brambles, installed large wood debris to foster a better habitat for the salmon, and planted a dense variety of native vegetation to help hold back the stream banks and provide shade for the salmon.

“We’ve got about 300-400 trees and shrubs, not including the live stakes, all about two feet apart from each other,” said Shattuck, who listed willow, red cedar and red twig dogwood as among those species. “Volunteers and Tribal Natural Resources staff did most of the planting in about a day. The county donated the plants and wood debris, and their staff helped us with the permitting and engineering of the site. Again, the stream’s neighbors were really behind us, and it was good working with the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation’s contractor. Our funding source was the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund.”

According to Shattuck, the contractor work ended in September and the planting took place in October, and all that’s left now is to install the interpretive sign for the site — which he expects will be completed within the next couple of months — and to continue the monitoring work that led the Tribes to select the stream in the first place.

“We monitored this site for three years prior to implementing anything,” Shattuck said. “This is a pilot program, because there are plenty of other drainage streams in the basin that could be made into better habitats for their fish.”

“If we are truly committed to seeing salmon stocks rebound to harvestable levels, we must work together on recovery projects both large and small,” Tulalip Tribal Chair Mel Sheldon Jr. said. “Greenwood Creek represents a small project with a huge benefit. The Tulalip Tribes look forward to working with Snohomish County on future projects to solve our salmon crisis.”

 

State awards more than $42 million in grants for salmon recovery

 

Organizations in 30 counties receive funding.

Written by Valley View Staff

The Woodinville Weekly December 9, 2013

OLYMPIA – The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Puget Sound Partnership has announced the award of more than $42 million in grants to organizations around the state for projects that restore and protect salmon habitat, helping bring salmon back from the brink of extinction.

“Salmon are an important part of both Washington’s culture and economy,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Healthy salmon populations support thousands of jobs in fishing, hotels and restaurants, seafood processing, boat sales and repair, charter operations, environmental restoration and more. I am very pleased with the work of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and its efforts to fund projects that help our economy and assure future generations of Washingtonians can enjoy the return of wild salmon.”

Funding for the grants comes from the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and the sale of state bonds. In addition, $24.4 million is from the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund, which is jointly approved by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Puget Sound Partnership in coordination with local watersheds, for projects that will help restore Puget Sound.

Grant recipients will use the money to remove barriers that prevent salmon from migrating, reshape rivers and streams and replant riverbanks so there are more places for salmon to spawn, feed, rest, hide from predators and transition from freshwater to saltwater and back again.

Organizations in King and Snohomish counties were among those receiving grants. Grant recipients in King County will receive $4,458,129 and recipients in Snohomish County will receive $6,189,644.

Creating Healthy Salmon Habitat

Salmon populations in Washington have been declining for generations. As Washington grew and built its cities and towns, it destroyed many of the places salmon need to live. In 1991, the federal government declared the first salmon as endangered.

By the end of that decade, salmon 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.

“Without these grants, Washington’s salmon populations would continue to decline until nothing was left,” said David Troutt, chair of the state funding board. “That’s the trajectory we were on before salmon were placed on the federal Endangered Species Act list. In most areas of the state, fish are increasing or staying the same while in some important areas, fish populations are decreasing. Habitat is the key to salmon recovery and continuing to fund these important projects will help to move all populations in a positive direction.”

How Projects are Chosen

Projects are selected by local watershed groups, called lead entities. Lead entities are local consortiums that include tribes, local governments, nonprofits and citizens who work together to recruit and review project proposals and make decisions about which projects to forward to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for funding.

Lead entities ensure that the projects are based on regional salmon recovery plans that were approved by the federal government. Then regional salmon recovery organizations and the Salmon Recovery Funding Board review each project to ensure they will help recover salmon in the most cost-effective manner.

“This bottom-up process of local groups identifying what needs to be fixed in their communities and then those projects undergoing regional and state scientific review means only the best and most cost-effective projects will be funded,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the grants. “We have been working for more than a decade to repair the damage that has been done to salmon habitat. But we have much more to accomplish before salmon can be removed from the endangered species list. This process of local priorities and state scientific overview has proven to be the most effective way of getting projects done on-the-ground and it assures we are investing the money we have very strategically.”

The Big Picture

“Restoring our lakes, streams, rivers and ecosystem isn’t just about saving salmon. A healthy ecosystem supports human health, our economy, our traditions, and our quality of life,” said Marc Daily, interim executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, the state agency leading the recovery of Puget Sound. “These projects help to protect and perpetuate valuable resources today and for generations to come.”

Recent Oregon studies showed that every $1 million spent on watershed restoration results in 15-33 new or sustained jobs, $2.2 million to $2.5 million in total economic activity, and that 80 percent of grant money is spent in the county where the project was located.

Using the Oregon study formula, these new grants are estimated to provide more than 630 jobs during the next four years and more than $84 million in economic activity as grant recipients hire contractors, crews and consultants to design and build projects, including field crews to restore rivers and shoreline areas.

Information about the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Recreation and Conservation Office is available online at www.rco.wa.gov.

Northwest Pacific Salmon Habitat Restoration Efforts Hampered by Development

Northwest Indian Fisheries CommissionAlthough much work is being done to restore salmon habitat in the Pacific Northwest—such as replacement and repair of culverts, as pictured above—salmon habitat is being compromised faster than it can be put back together.


Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission
Although much work is being done to restore salmon habitat in the Pacific Northwest—such as replacement and repair of culverts, as pictured above—salmon habitat is being compromised faster than it can be put back together.

Richard Walker, Indian Country Today Media Network

Millions of dollars were spent on salmon habitat recovery in 2012, and millions more are being spent this year. But a foremost salmon expert says that without federal coordination of those efforts, and enforcement of existing laws, we may have passed a tipping point.

“We need to bring salmon habitat restoration back to the White House,” said Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and one of the foremost salmon experts, in a 2012 telephone interview with ICTMN. He was about to walk into a meeting with Justice Department officials and members of Congress to ask that the federal government lead a coordinated salmon recovery effort.

“The federal government has turned over all of its responsibility to the state,” he said. “State agencies are broke and they’re not managing anything now.”

It took just 150 years to damage salmon habitat that had flourished for thousands of years. Development in shoreline areas. Dams. Fertilizers. Logging. Polluted storm-water runoff that ultimately made its way to the sea.

Today, dams have been torn down on the Elwha River. Culverts are being removed so that salmon can return unimpeded to natal streams. Dikes are being dismantled so waters can return to estuaries. Pollution sources are being identified and corrected. But according to studies by the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Washington State is losing salmon habitat faster than it’s being restored, and Frank believes that federal leadership is needed to implement salmon recovery consistently across jurisdictional lines.

RELATED: Dammed No More: Chinook Return to Elwha River

Salmon recovery involves many agencies and jurisdictions, but those efforts are often not in sync; in fact they frequently conflict with federal salmon habitat-recovery goals. In one example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued permits for shoreline structures that salmon recovery goals seek to remove. In Washington State’s Shoreline Management Act, homes are considered a “preferred” shoreline use, although home development often is accompanied by the construction of bulkheads and docks. Shoreline armoring and riparian vegetation removal are within the jurisdiction of National Marine Fisheries Service’s policy governing enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, but “there appears to be only one instance of NMFS exercising its enforcement authority over these activities during the past decade,” according to a 2011 report from the fisheries commission, “Treaty Rights at Risk: Ongoing Habitat Loss, the Decline of the Salmon Resource, and Recommendations for Change,” which led to an ongoing initiative of the same name.

But little has changed, and in September 2012 the fisheries commission released another report, “State of Our Watersheds,” documenting the results of local and state planning that have been in conflict with salmon habitat-recovery goals.

 

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/09/02/northwest-pacific-salmon-habitat-restoration-efforts-hampered-development-151126