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King County watersheds get grant funding for salmon habitat protection, restoration work


State grant funding totaling more than $600,000 will soon be put to use in habitat restoration work benefitting imperiled salmon populations in watersheds across King County.


Habitat for endangered salmon and other wildlife in three King County watersheds will see added improvements, thanks to more than $614,864 in Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration grants recently awarded from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

“Whether it’s work to restore a stretch of a small creek and its delta as it enters Lake Washington, or a much larger project to set back a levee and improve habitat along a major river, the projects that these grants fund are absolutely critical to our long-term and coordinated approach to restoring salmon,” said Christie True, director of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

The grants not only help repair damage to salmon habitat and conserve land important to salmon recovery, they put people to work. According to the state, every $1 million spent on watershed restoration results in an average of 16.7 jobs and up to $2.6 million in total economic activity with 80 percent of funds spent in the county where the project is located.

The grants are a critical piece of bringing salmon back from the brink of extinction. Without this funding that effort would not be possible.
The funded projects span three watersheds that stretch from the Cascade crest west to the shoreline of Puget Sound, and are home to chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and bull trout, all listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Proposals were evaluated in a rigorous process intended to identify the most effective and scientifically-sound projects and each watershed group reviewed and prioritized projects before sending funding requests to the state.

Here is a summary of the grant awards by watershed:

King County Watershed: Snoqualmie Watershed (WRIA7)
Recipient: Wild Fish Conservancy
Project: Designing Restoration of Beckler River Confluence
Grant Award: $61,533

Funding will be used to develop preliminary designs for the construction of seven to ten engineered logjams in the confluence of the Beckler and South Fork Skykomish rivers with a goal of reconnecting the lower Beckler River to its historic alluvial fan. Logjams create places for fish to rest and hide from predators. They also slow the river, which reduces erosion and the amount of sediment in the river and allows small gravel to settle to the river bottom for spawning areas. Finally, they change the flow of the river, creating riffles and deep cold pools, giving fish more varied habitat. This project is a collaboration between the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Wild Fish Conservancy, and King County. The river is used by Puget Sound chinook salmon and steelhead, both of which are listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Wild Fish Conservancy will contribute $57,453 in a local grant.

“Adding log jams will improve and vary habitat for threatened salmon species in the Snoqualmie Watershed, it may help them weather changing climate conditions, and it can be implemented with our recreation stakeholders in mind,” said Snoqualmie Watershed Forum Chair and Carnation Councilmember Lee Grumman. “While we have made some progress in recovering threatened salmon, we have much left to do – funding from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the coordinated efforts of our government and non-profit partners will help us get there.”

King County Watershed: Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed (WRIA 8)
Recipient: Seattle Public Utilities
Project: Designing Restoration of Lower Taylor Creek
Grant Awarded: $315,218

Funding will be used to complete project design for restoring the lower 600 feet of Taylor Creek, from Rainier Avenue South to Lake Washington, and enhancing about 160 feet of the lake’s shoreline and 8,500-10,000 square feet of lakeshore delta. Future work will restore this incised channel to a meandering creek with woody materials that give fish places to hide from predators and a replanted and accessible floodplain. The goal is to improve rearing and refuge habitat for juvenile chinook salmon emigrating from the Cedar River. After completion, Seattle’s Parks and Recreation Department will manage the project site as a passive-use natural area. Taylor Creek is used by Puget Sound chinook salmon, which are listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act. Seattle Public Utilities will contribute $87,500.

“Restoring the Lake Washington shoreline and the mouths of the small creeks that empty into the lake provides critically important habitat for juvenile chinook salmon as they migrate along the lakeshore,” said WRIA 8 Salmon Recovery Council Chair and Bothell Mayor Andy Rheaume. “Funding support from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the leadership of key partners like the City of Seattle ensures that our watershed can be a place for people and salmon to live together.”

King County Watershed: Green/Duwamish and Central Puget Sound Watershed (WRIA 9)
Recipient: King County
Project: Setting Back the Porter Levee
Grant Awarded: $238,113

Funding will be used to place logjams and build a backwater channel on the middle Green River, two miles upriver from Auburn. The work is part of a larger project to remove about 900 feet of the 1,400-foot-long Porter Levee along the Green River. The levee, built in 1961, has a near vertical bank, confines the river channel, and prevents habitat-forming processes in the floodplain. Removing a portion of the levee would restore river migration across 52 acres of floodplain and improve salmonid habitat. King County will build a new levee further back to protect a county road. This action will significantly improve spawning, rearing, and refuge habitat for chinook salmon, which are listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act, and for steelhead. King County will contribute $42,945.

“These grants enable us to significantly improve flood capacity and restore salmon habitat of the Green River by setting back levees.  In this case, we also designed the project to support farming of the fertile soil of the Green River valley near Auburn,” said Bill Peloza, Auburn City Councilmember and co-chair of the WRIA 9 Watershed Ecosystem Forum.

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The Snoqualmie Watershed Forum represents the King County portion of the Snohomish Basin (WRIA 7), the WRIA 8 Salmon Recovery Council represents the Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed, and the WRIA 9 Watershed Ecosystem Forum represents the Green/Duwamish and Central Puget Sound Watershed. Each is a regionally coordinated watershed group focused on salmon recovery with participation from tribal governments, local governments, cities, community groups, state and federal agencies, businesses, utilities and citizens.

• Perry Falcone, Snoqualmie Watershed, 206-477-4689
• Jason Mulvihill-Kuntz, Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed, 206-477-4780
• Doug Osterman, Green/Duwamish and Central Puget Sound Watershed, 206-477-4793