South Pierce streams in salmon project funding

By Pat Jenkins
The Dispatch
The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Puget Sound Partnership have awarded more than $53 million in new grants for conservation projects – some of them in south Pierce County – that officials said will protect and restore salmon habitat.
With the Legislature’s approval in January of the state’s new capital budget, the grants that were announced last week are being distributed for 163 projects to organizations in 29 of the state’s 39 counties. The grants will be used to remove barriers that prevent salmon from migrating, increase the types and amount of habitat for salmon, protect pristine areas and restore critical habitat so salmon have places to spawn, feed, rest and grow.
The projects include 10 in Pierce County, with several in the south part of the county.

$223,228 for conserving Busy Wild Creek

The Nisqually Land Trust will use this grant, plus $53,000 from other grant sources, to buy up to 1,385 acres of commercial forestland along Busy Wild Creek. This is part of a larger project to conserve about four miles of the creek, 3.8 miles of tributary streams, the steep bluffs on the northeast side, and adjacent forests.
The bluffs and upland on the southwest side of the stream are state-owned and managed as a part of Elbe Hills State Forest.
Busy Wild Creek is in the upper reaches of the Mashel River, a tributary of the Nisqually River. The creek is considered particularly important for protecting and restoring habitat for steelhead, which are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act as threatened with extinction.
Nisqually Land Trust is a non-profit organization whose conservation efforts in the Nisqually River watershed stretches from Mount Rainier National Park to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

$179,951 for controlling weeds along Ohop Creek

The Nisqually Land Trust will use this grant to control weeds on 32 acres along Ohop Creek, one of the two main tributaries to the Nisqually River. The creek provides spawning and rearing habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead trout, both of which are listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act, and for coho salmon, which is a
federal species of concern.
This project is part of a larger one that will include restoration and was funded partially by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board in December. Permanent protection and floodplain restoration will allow natural stream and floodplain processes to occur.
The land includes than 1,000 feet of Ohop Creek, 6.5 acres of mostly fallow pasture and old farmland north of the creek, and 25.5 acres south of the creek, including fallow pasture in the Ohop floodplain and a forested bluff.
Nisqually Land Trust will contribute $34,975 from another grant and donations of volunteer to the project.
Other projects in Pierce County receiving money in the new round of Salmon Recovery grants include a purchase and preservation by Forterra of 15 acres in the South Prairie Creek floodplain near Orting ($152,384), Pierce Conservation District’s purchase for future restoration of five acres in floodplain affecting the Carbon and Puyallup rivers ($95,495), Nisqually Land Trust’s purchase and conservation of 185 acres of Nisqually River shoreline near Yelm ($1 million), restoration by South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group of about a half-mile of South Prairie Creek and floodplain east of Orting ($1.3 million), and the acquisition through Pierce County Planning and Public Works Department of land along Alward Road near Orting as part of a setback levee on the Carbon River ($181,613),
Funding for the Salmon Recovery grants comes from the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration fund, the state capital budget, and federal sources. The projects are linked to federally-approved recovery plans and were “thoroughly reviewed by local citizens and regional and state technical experts,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the state Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the grants.
“Salmon are vitally important to Washington’s economy and to our way of life. They are one of our state’s most precious resources,” said Governor Jay Inslee as the Salmon Recovery grants were announced Jan. 25. “These projects will help tackle some of the fundamental problems that are destroying our salmon populations. By making these investments we are taking steps to increase the number of salmon so there will be enough fish for future generations, orcas and for the communities and jobs that rely on the fishing industry.”
Inslee’s comments were echoed by Sheida Sahandy, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, a regional salmon recovery organization for most of Puget Sound’s salmon species.
“Salmon are the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest,” Sahandy said. “They feed our families, support our culture and fuel our economy. They are also a critical link in the entire food web of the Puget Sound ecosystem. These funds support projects that will help to renew our salmon populations.”
According to Sahandy and others, population growth and construction around water have destroyed many of the places salmon once lived. In 1991, the federal government declared the first salmon as threatened with extinction. 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.
The conservation and restoration projects ticketed for grants “are keeping us from losing salmon entirely,” said David Troutt, chairman of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. “Salmon are in trouble, but we know what to do. We have federally approved recovery plans in place and the people to make them happen. We must continue these investments if we are to return salmon to healthy and sustainable numbers.”


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