Thurston and Pierce counties were among nearly a dozen other counties that will be the recipients of a total state investment of $45 million by the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board to help salmon populations.
The Nisqually River will be the prime benefactor between these two counties, which will receive a combined total of $3.6 million in grants from the state Salmon Recovery Board. Grant funds will go toward improving salmon habitat and conserving pristine shorelines and riverbanks, according to a Monday, July 8, media release.
Property acquisitions around the Nisqually River by a number of land trusts and local organizations will total around 209 acres, thanks to these grants, and listed projects include native plant reintroduction, improved shoreline shading, habitat restoration, the creation of buffer areas and the removal of levees and berms on the river.
Some grants will fund conservation efforts on smaller bodies of water such as Lackamas Creek.
The Nisqually Land Trust will spearhead many of the efforts on the Nisqually. Each grant recipient will contribute a certain proportion of funds toward their respective projects.
Habitat restoration and conservation efforts on the Deschutes River will also receive funding from the state in the amount of about $655,000, according to information from the State Recreation and Conservation Office.
The Capitol Land Trust and South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group, the primary recipients for the Deschutes River grants, will work on projects surrounding the confluence of Silver Creek and the Deschutes, create wooden structures downstream from State Route 507 for fish to hide under, establish a buffer, and create riffles and pools for fish to rest in.
Chinook, coho and steelhead salmon will benefit from all of these projects on the Nisqually River and Deschutes River.
In 1991, the federal government declared the first salmon in the Pacific Northwest endangered under the Endangered Species Act. In the next few years, 14 additional species of salmon and steelhead and three species of bull trout were listed as at-risk of extinction.
By the end of the decade, wild salmon had disappeared from about 40 percent of their historic breeding ranges in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California. In Washington, the numbers had dwindled so much that salmon, steelhead and bull trout were listed as threatened or endangered in nearly three-fourths of the state.
Recovery efforts in the past 20 years have started to slow, and in some cases, reference the declines. Puget Sound steelhead populations are showing signs of recovery but Chinook salmon populations continue to decline.
“When we invest in salmon recovery, it’s not just salmon that we’re saving,” said Gov. Jay Inslee in the press release. “Whether you live near, love to play in or simply care about Puget Sound, this funding is a cornerstone of doing that — and investing in that habitat kick starts a suite of other benefits. We’re also preserving our Pacific Northwest legacy, our way of life, our jobs, our neighborhoods and our communities.”
To see all of the grants and descriptions of the projects, visit rco.wa.gov/documents/press/2019/PSARGrantDescriptions2019.pdf.