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State to fund salmon habitat-protection efforts
A recent state grant of $4.8 million will go toward a
major concern of many county residents: salmon protection.
Nearly 1,000 acres of salmon habitat in King County
watersheds will be protected as a result of the grant, which was
appropriated by Congress and the Washington State Legislature.
The grant money will go toward habitat restoration and
protection projects approved Jan. 26 by the Washington State Salmon
Recovery Funding Board. With the funding, land critical to
salmon survival will be bought and preserved, and other habitat areas
will be improved with projects such as planting vegetation and
removing fish passage barriers.
"This is an important investment in the conservation of
critical habitat in the Puget Sound basin," said King County
Executive Ron Sims. "One of the most important things we can do
for salmon, and for the overall health of our environment, is to
preserve the precious natural habitat that still exists."
Of the $4.8 million, more than $1 million will be spent in
the Snohomish Watershed, which includes the Snoqualmie
and Skykomish rivers. Four of the projects are land
acquisitions sponsored by the King County Department of Natural
Resources, and a fifth was sponsored by the city of Seattle.
For DNR's projects, $399,500 will be used to purchase 80
acres along the Tolt River, a few miles east of Carnation; $249,000
will buy 15 acres of habitat along Griffin Creek, near
Carnation; $200,600 will go toward the purchase of 37 acres of forested
wetlands along Patterson Creek, between Fall City and
Redmond; and $85,000 will be spent on land alongside the Snoqualmie River.
"This is habitat that is in good condition right now, so we
want to protect it," said Kirk Anderson, the Snoqualmie steward for
DNR. Anderson's job is to figure out which salmon recovery
projects need to be done and to find funding.
He said the reason these particular areas were selected is
because they provide critical habitat for salmon during their
freshwater life stages, such as spawning.
"[County residents] tend to simplify rivers because we
have economic reasons to use the land around it, and if we do that, it
reduces the wildness and the naturalness of the system,"
Anderson said. "So by purchasing habitat, we are saying we want the land
to remain unaltered."
The Seattle-sponsored project will study the possibility of
placing levies alongside the Tolt River at the river's confluence area,
also near Carnation.
The DNR land acquisitions and Seattle projects should
start later this year. The acquisitions will be on a volunteer basis,
and DNR representatives will begin in May to speak with the land's
current owners about the possibility of a sale. The preservation
areas are large enough so that if one property owner doesn't want
to sell, others might, Anderson said, adding that DNR's goal is to
get as much land as possible with the grant money.
Besides the county, funding was allocated to projects
around the state. The funding board received 249 salmon project
grant applications from a wide range of interest groups, including
local governments, nonprofit organizations and tribes. Projects were
reviewed and ranked locally within each watershed by a scientific
review panel, and the most critical received funding. Statewide,
a total of $31.8 million was allocated for salmon recovery
and habitat restoration projects.
The Salmon Recovery Funding Board was established in
July 1999 by the Legislature to help oversee the investment of
state and federal funds for salmon recovery, and this is the second
set of grants administered by the board. The board consists of
five citizen members appointed by the governor with different facets
of expertise in salmon preservation and protection, and five
directors from state agencies, including the Departments of Ecology,
Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, and Transportation, and the
Most well-known of the citizen's group is Seattle
resident William Ruckelshaus, who was in the past appointed by
several United States presidents to head the Environmental
Protection Agency and was appointed by former President Clinton to
negotiate with Canada on salmon recovery.
As for future funding, the board allocates money each
year. Gov. Gary Locke has requested $56 million in state and
federal money in his proposed 2001-2003 budget.