Washington’s Department of Ecology is touting seven federal grants worth $5-plus million that will benefit Puget Sound estuaries, some of the most “complex, productive ecosystems in the world, rivaling the planet’s rain forests and coral reefs.”
It’s key habitat for young salmon and myriad other species, and the money from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program will help “restore and enhance nearly 500 acres of coastal wetlands and 17,500 feet of marine shoreline in Jefferson, Kitsap, Snohomish, Thurston, and Whatcom Counties,” according to DOE.
Importantly, nearly 20 percent of those dollars will go to a project that will help out Stillaguamish River Chinook, which due to their chronically low numbers perpetually constrain salmon fisheries, including the brutal cut to winter blackmouth angling opportunities at the recently concluded North of Falcon season negotiations with tribal comanagers.
Lifeblood, a 20-minute documentary released by WDFW earlier this year, focused on anglers, tribes, farmers and fishery scientists working towards salmon restoration in this part of Snohomish County.
We’re working in partnership with Jefferson Land Trust to acquire and conserve nine acres of critical wetlands and nearshore habitat in Discovery Bay in Jefferson County and nearly 2,173 feet of Puget Sound shoreline. The project will conserve degraded and filled estuary and nearshore habitat and preserve a rare intact pocket estuary that provides high-functioning salt marsh habitat in the Discovery Bay area. The sites feature current and historic estuarine salt marsh habitat, freshwater marsh, sand spit, the mouth of a fish-bearing stream, tide flats and tidal channels with a salt marsh fringe, and surrounding marine riparian forest. The wetlands provide critical habitat for several federally listed salmonids, as well as numerous other fish and wildlife species, such as Olympia oysters, forage fish, and migratory shorebirds.
Drayton Harbor and California Creek Estuary ($915,000)
We’re working in partnership with the Whatcom Land Trust to acquire and restore four parcels totaling 54.66 acres of coastal wetland habitat and 6,500 feet of shoreline. The project site is located in Whatcom County in Salish Sea portion of north Puget Sound. All four parcels are situated along California Creek, a tributary stream to Drayton Harbor. The mudflats and tidal marshes along California Creek provide critical habitat to breeding, migrating and rearing salmonid species and fall within a regionally significant area for birds. The wetlands will provide foraging and rearing habitat for a diversity of coastal dependent and migratory shorebirds, waterfowl and passerine species, for example, black oystercatchers, greater yellowlegs, and red-necked grebe.
Lower Eld Inlet Acquisition Phase 3 ($355,000)
We are working in partnership with the Capitol Land Trust to acquire and permanently protect a total of 55 acres, with 9.5 acres of tidelands and 46.1 acres of wetlands, including 3,250 feet of shoreline on Lower Eld Inlet and McLane Creek estuary in Thurston County. The project will acquire and permanently protect one 15-acre parcel and eight contiguous five-acre parcels adjacent to nearly 600 acres of habitat and six miles of shoreline protected by previous National Coastal Wetland Conservation grants. The project will also remove five derelict structures, two fish-blocking culverts, restore the wetland hydrology, and eradicate areas of invasive species.
We are working in partnership with the Capitol Land Trust to permanently protect 94.18 acres and 2,100 feet of Puget Sound shoreline in Thurston County through a conservation easement. The project builds on the recent successful acquisition and restoration project on over 150 acres on the opposite shore of Henderson Inlet, funded through a 2017 grant. The property has diverse habitats, from estuary and nearshore habitat, to an agricultural field and forests with timber stands ranging from 15 to 70 years old. It also includes 43.6 acres of wetlands and nearshore habitat, important rearing areas for Chinook and Coho salmon and steelhead trout. This property has been identified as high priority for acquisition by Ecology and the Squaxin Island Tribe.
Misery Point Habitat Acquisition ($1 million)
We are working in partnership with the Great Peninsula Conservancy to acquire 20.7 acres and approximately 3,500 feet of Hood Canal and barrier lagoon shoreline in Kitsap County. The property contains a 1,600-foot sand spit, which shelters a three-acre tidal lagoon that provides important refuge habitat for juvenile salmon and waterfowl. It also has feeder bluffs (eroding coastal bluffs) that provide sediment to maintain and grow the sand spit, and nutrients for the eelgrass beds that grow in the property’s tidelands. Eelgrass beds are critical habitat for many species of juvenile salmon, including federally listed Hood Canal summer chum salmon and Puget Sound Chinook salmon. They are also important for spawning Pacific herring, which are an important food source for salmon, marine mammals, and many bird species.
We are working in partnership with the Stillaguamish Tribe to acquire 248 acres of former estuarine and marine wetlands in Snohomish County. The goal is to set back levees and return the coastal wetland acres to tidal and riverine influence. Future restoration of tidal wetlands at this site would benefit a wide range of fish and wildlife species, but especially federally listed Chinook populations in the Stillaguamish and Skagit Rivers. Restoring these tidal wetlands is specifically called for in the Puget Sound Chinook Recovery Plan. Protecting and restoring these lands will also provide benefits to waterfowl and shorebirds using the Pacific Flyway.
Tarboo Creek Wetlands Acquisition and Restoration ($508,000)
We are working in partnership with the Northwest Watershed Institute to permanently protect and restore 14.5 acres of wetlands on three adjoining parcels along Tarboo Creek that drain directly into Tarboo-Dabob Bay and Puget Sound. The restoration of five acres includes removing structures and wetland fill from two properties and re-vegetating a third property to restore nationally and regionally declining forested and scrub-shrub declining wetlands types. The project site includes a variety of freshwater wetland types and Tarboo Creek and two tributaries flow through the parcel. The diverse wetland types and streams provide habitat for many at-risk species, including rearing and spawning habitat for federally listed steelhead salmon and coho salmon, coastal cutthroat trout, and western brook lamprey.