Gov. Gregoire announces $27.5 million in federal help to support salmon recovery efforts

September 27, 2010 08:50

Gov. Chris Gregoire announced that Washington was awarded $27.5 million for salmon recovery efforts by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office from the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, an annual Congressional appropriation provided to the states, reports with reference to Government of Washington.

"This funding is important for Washington's salmon recovery and Puget Sound restoration efforts" Gregoire said. "Citizens are working in nearly every community to return salmon to viable levels and winning this grant demonstrates the state's effort and commitment in responding to the Endangered Species Act is exemplary. I am proud of the work done by Washingtonians across the state to restore salmon and other fish. I also am grateful for the efforts of Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell, Congressman Norm Dicks and the rest of the congressional delegation to ensure that this important work received funding."

The funding was awarded to the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. Of that:

  • $16 million will be used as grants for salmon habitat restoration and protection projects that implement the state's salmon recovery plans. The Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board will award these funds to projects at its December 9-10 meeting in Olympia.
  • $2.6 million for statewide monitoring to ensure that habitat restoration projects are effective and $1 million for monitoring in the lower Columbia River region.
  • $6.9 million will be used to improve fish hatcheries and selective fisheries monitoring, including $4 million for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife for hatchery reform that supports both the lower Columbia River and Puget Sound salmon recovery plans, and $2.6 million to the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission to implement tribal projects that improve, evaluate, and monitor hatchery practices and strategies.
• The remaining amount of the grant will be used for administration.

"In Washington State, we understand that a sustainable salmon population is absolutely critical to the economic, historic, cultural and recreational identity of our state," said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. "I was proud to work with my colleagues to make sure that cities, counties and organizations all over Washington state will be able to access the resources they need to protect, restore and invest in our salmon population, creating good paying jobs and boosting the local economy."

"Ten years after we in Congress started the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund, it continues to be one of the most important tools in our efforts to reverse the decline of salmon," said U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks. "And last year, I worked to increase the funding for the Mitchell Act by more than 60 percent. I will continue to work with my colleagues to obtain this federal funding, which is so important to our salmon recovery efforts."

"Thriving, healthy salmon runs are critical to the economy, culture, environment and identity of the Pacific Northwest," said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell. "Our beloved salmon populations are under threat, but we know what we have to do, and now with these grants we have the resources to do it. By restoring salmon habitat, improving hatcheries and opening more streams to fish passage, we will help preserve an icon of the Northwest for future generations."

Separately, NOAA awarded the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife $10.8 million from the Mitchell Act for Columbia River basin hatcheries. More than $4 million is dedicated to the operation and maintenance of six Columbia River hatchery facilities. An additional $6.6 million in new funding is focused on implementing hatchery and harvest reform projects. Specifically, this funding targets reducing the negative effects of hatchery operations on federally listed wild fish and explores alternative commercial fishing gear, in a large scale study, to improve the harvest efficiencies on hatchery fish while reducing the total impacts to wild fish.

This year, Dicks and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray were instrumental in increasing the Mitchell Act funding from $16 million to $26 million.

"This funding will put people to work in Washington, improving the environment not only for salmon and other wildlife but for the many industries and businesses that rely on them," said Steve Tharinger, chair of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. "We are very fortunate in Washington to have a lot of people, organizations and communities that care about salmon recovery and have made it their life's work. Without that dedication, Washington wouldn't be as far along as we are in bringing salmon back from the brink of extinction."

Salmon were first put on the federal list of endangered species in 1991. By then, the number of salmon had fallen to only 40 percent of historic levels in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California. By 1999, almost three-fourths of Washington's watersheds were affected by Endangered Species Act listings of salmon and bull trout. 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.

Since 1999, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board has received more than $276 million from the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. That funding has been matched by more than $219 million in state funding and local grant recipients have contributed nearly $224 million in matching resources such as labor, materials, equipment, and donations. In total, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board has awarded grants to more than 1,700 projects.

Those efforts are paying off. "Washington State is seeing the effects of a decade of salmon recovery funding," said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office. "According to two NOAA reports, many of Washington's salmon populations appear to be improving and beginning to reverse the declines that resulted in the Endangered Species Act listings."

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