Salmon and Orca Recovery Grants Awarded

The Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board recently approved nearly $18 million in grants for four large restoration projects around the state. The grants will restore land along rivers in Kittitas and Okanogan Counties, conserve habitat next to a refuge in Pacific County, and remove barriers to salmon migration in Walla Walla.

In addition, to help recover endangered southern resident killer whales, the Recreation and Conservation Office announced $9.4 million in federal funding for eight projects to restore habitat for Chinook salmon, the main food for orcas.

“These grants are for large and important projects that will help us take big steps forward in bringing salmon and orcas back from the brink of extinction,” said Megan Duffy, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which supports the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. “We’re grateful that the state Legislature and Congress continue to recognize the importance salmon and orca play in our lives, jobs and recreational pursuits in Washington and have invested in these key projects.”

Salmon Recovery Grants
Funding for the salmon board grants came from the state Legislature in 2021. The board funded $76 million in grants for 138 salmon recovery projects statewide in September. The board approved another $58 million in grant requests for 55 projects in the Puget Sound area that are awaiting legislative approval in 2023. Combined this is the most amount of money directed at salmon recovery in a single year since the board was created 23 years ago.

Orca Recovery Grants
Funding for the orca grants comes from Congress through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as part of the Pacific Salmon Treaty. The treaty, signed by United States and Canada in 1985, provides a framework for the two countries to cooperate on the management of Pacific salmon. Pacific salmon are highly migratory, often spending years at sea and travelling thousands of miles before returning to their native rivers to spawn. The administration is distributing funding across Puget Sound and the West Coast to support orca and Chinook salmon recovery.

Grants were awarded in the counties below. 

King 390,334

Kittitas. $3,60935

Okanogan $4,794,000

Pacific . $4,794,000

Skagit .. $430,000

Snohomish $5,428,564

Walla Walla $4,794,000

Whatcom $3,215,844

Whatcom County

Lummi Nation Grant Awarded:
$2,065,844 for restoring the Porter Creek Reach of the Middle Fork Nooksack River

The Lummi Nation will use this grant to restore the Middle Fork Nooksack River and its side channels, north of Mosquito Lake Road in Whatcom County. The goal is to increase cold-water areas, stabilize the riverbanks, and increase habitat diversity. The tribe will build 27 logjams and 4 flood fence post arrays, excavate 1,040 feet of side channels, and plant 2.5 acres along the river and its tributary. Logjams and post arrays will deflect high-flow energy away from critical spawning and rearing habitat and improve channel stability. Logjams also create places for fish to rest, feed, and hide from predators. They slow the water, which reduces erosion and allows small rocks to settle to the riverbed, creating areas for salmon to spawn. Finally, they change the flow of the river, creating riffles and pools, which give salmon more varied habitat. 

Planting trees and bushes along a river helps shade the water, keeping it cool for fish. The plants also drop branches and leaves into the water, which provide food for the insects that salmon eat. Finally, the roots of the plants help keep soil from entering the water, where it can smother fish spawning gravel. 

The river is used by Chinook salmon (the preferred food of endangered southern resident killer whales) and steelhead and bull trout, all of which are species listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act, by coho salmon, which is a federal species of concern, and by chum, sockeye, and pink salmon. This project received an additional $46,900 from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. Visit RCO’s online Project Snapshot for more information and photographs of this project.

Nooksack Indian Tribe Grant Awarded:
$1,150,000 for restoring the South Fork Nooksack River’s Homesteader Reach

The Nooksack Indian Tribe will use this grant to build logjams in 0.4 mile of the South Fork Nooksack River at Homesteader Reach, north of Acme in Whatcom County. 

In summer 2021, more than 2,500 Chinook salmon died on the spawning grounds before spawning. Scientists believe the deaths were caused by water that was too warm, low river flows, and degraded habitat. 

This reach is one of the few remaining high-priority areas in the lower South Fork for which restoration is needed. It is heavily used by Chinook for spawning and rearing, as well as holding for those Chinook returning to the Skookum hatchery and spawning grounds upstream. The project will reduce risk that Chinook will die before they can spawn by creating deep, cold pools. 

Restoration also will benefit steelhead and bull trout, both of which are species listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act; coho, chum, sockeye, and pink salmon; and cutthroat trout. This project received an additional $4.9 million from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board.


Washington Recreation and Conservation Office

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