San Juan County projects receive more than $120,000 for salmon recovery

  • Sat Dec 29th, 2018 1:30am
  • News

Salmon recovery projects in San Juan County were awarded $277,742 from the Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board on Dec. 10.

The board issued nearly $18 million in grants for projects to restore salmon habitat to bring the iconic fish back from the brink of extinction. An estimated 75 percent of the funded projects will benefit Chinook salmon, which make up a large part of the southern resident orca whale diet.

“This funding helps protect one of our most beloved legacies,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Together we’re taking a step forward for salmon, and in turn dwindling southern resident orca whales, while also looking back to ensure we’re preserving historic tribal cultural traditions and upholding promises made more than a century ago.”

Friends of the San Juans received $120,484 to plan the restoration of San Juan salmon habitat. The Friends of the San Juans will use this grant to plan for the removal of shoreline armoring to increase the quantity and quality of habitat for young Chinook salmon and their prey, thereby increasing food for southern resident killer whales. The group will reach out to landowners, assess 10-15 potential sites, complete conceptual designs for 3-5 sites, and advance 1-2 sites through preliminary design. Removing armoring will restore habitat and natural coastal processes. This project will benefit Chinook salmon, which is listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act, and by coho salmon, which is a federal species of concern. This is part of a larger project that the Salmon Recovery Funding Board approved to receive Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration funding, pending approval by the Legislature. The Friends of the San Juans will contribute $30,691 in a private grant.

San Juan County received an award of $91,758 for Agate Beach County Park Shoreline Restoration. The San Juan County Parks and Recreation Department will use this grant to design armor removal and shoreline restoration along Agate Beach County Park on Lopez Island’s Outer Bay.

Designs will include removal for 340 feet of armor in the park and potentially 190 feet of armor on privately owned land to restore natural processes that nourish the beach. Outer Bay includes rearing habitat for migrating young salmon and spawning habitat for the fish salmon eat. The area is used by Chinook salmon, which is listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

The county was also awarded $65,500 for the restoration of MacKaye Harbor.

The San Juan County Public Works Department will use this grant to complete a feasibility alternatives analysis, design, and permitting for a project to remove shoreline armoring near the MacKaye Harbor boat launch on Lopez Island. The County will consider partial or full jetty removal, partial or full revetment removal or relocation, removal of armor along a bluff, and restoration of natural beach processes. The County also will assess beach erosion. The MacKaye Harbor boat launch and Norman and Starboard Roads beach are next to one of nine known sand lance spawning beaches in the San Juan Islands and is a known surf smelt spawning area.

Sand lance are one of the most important sources of food for Chinook salmon. The area is used by Chinook salmon, which is listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act, and by coho salmon, which is a federal species of concern. San Juan County will contribute $12,250 in cash and donations of labor.

Since the creation of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board in 1999, the board has awarded more than $700 million in state and federal funds to more than 2,650 projects across the state. With matching funds provided by grant recipients, the amount invested in board-funded salmon recovery projects is $987 million.

The Salmon Recovery Funding Board awarded grants to organizations for 95 projects in 30 of the state’s 39 counties. Grant recipients will use this funding to remove barriers that prevent salmon from migrating, increase the types and amount of salmon habitat, conserve pristine areas and replant riverbanks to increase places for salmon to spawn, feed, rest, hide from predators and transition from freshwater to saltwater and back again.

“We are committed to restoring salmon populations back to levels that support communities and support people,” said David Troutt, chair of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. “This funding enables local communities to restore the places salmon live, while also initiating a cascade of other benefits, from less flooding to better water quality, more water in rivers for salmon and other fish, and a boost to our statewide economy.”

Recent studies show that every $1 million spent on watershed restoration results in between 15.7 and 23.8 jobs and up to $2.5 million in total economic activity. The funds awarded this week are estimated to provide up to 470 jobs during the next 4 years and up to nearly $50 million in economic activity. These new grants will put contractors, consultants and field crews to work designing and building projects and restoring rivers and shorelines. It is estimated that about 80 percent of these funds stay in the county where the project is located.

The board also approved ranked lists of Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration program projects to submit to the Legislature for funding consideration. The project requests totaled nearly $21 million with another $46 million requested for larger projects.

The Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration program is a state capital bond-funded program focused on Puget Sound and Hood Canal, jointly administered by the Recreation and Conservation Office and the Puget Sound Partnership.

“Salmon are the heart of nature’s system in Puget Sound,” said Sheida Sahandy, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. The Partnership’s Leadership Council is the regional salmon recovery organization for most of Puget Sound’s salmon species. “They feed our orca, and they also nourish people. They provide cultural, economic and physical well-being to the entire system. These projects help fulfill our responsibility to sustain the salmon that sustain us.”

How Projects are Chosen

Projects are selected by lead entities, which are watershed-based groups that include tribes, local governments, nonprofit organizations and citizens. Lead entities recruit projects and sponsors, vet projects based on federally approved regional salmon recovery plans and prioritize which projects to submit to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for funding. Regional salmon recovery organizations and the board review each project for cost-effectiveness and to ensure they will benefit salmon.

“With steady checks and balances throughout the process, this bottom-up approach is the backbone of our efforts to ensure a thriving future not only for salmon, but for orcas, other wildlife and ultimately — us,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the grants. “It consistently produces projects with widespread support that are rooted in our local communities.”

Why Save Salmon?

Washington state salmon populations 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, steelhead and bull trout were listed as threatened or endangered in three-quarters of the state.

Those listings set off the formation of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board to oversee state and federally funded investments in salmon recovery.

Grant funding comes from the Legislature-authorized sale of state bonds and from the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, which National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service administers.

Information about the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Recreation and Conservation Office is available online at