“A healthy Washington state economy is reliant on healthy salmon populations,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire. “Salmon support jobs and small businesses – especially our mom-and-pop tackle shops, restaurants, fishing guides and hotels. This grant not only will help Washington keep people employed, it will help our efforts to restore and protect our natural resources, making Washington a better place for all of us to live.”
Of the $22 million, $15 million will be awarded by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board as competitive grants for projects statewide that will restore and protect the rivers, streams and bays that salmon need to recover.
“The grant process is very competitive and works from the ground up,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the federal grant and supports the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. “Local communities wrote salmon recovery plans, which were approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Local watershed groups, called lead entities, select projects based on the priorities in those plans and community needs. State scientists review the projects to make sure they will be effective. The process helps us ensure we are investing in projects that will do the most to recover salmon.”
Another $3.3 million of the federal grant goes to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for hatchery and harvest reform projects. Projects to monitor the effectiveness of the state’s efforts will receive $2.9 million.
Today, recreational salmon fishing alone creates nearly $130 million in economic activity every year, according to a 2006 study by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“That doesn’t include what restoration and protection of land does for property values and quality of life,” Cottingham said. “It’s hard to think of Washington without salmon.”
As Washington’s population has grown, its salmon populations have dwindled. The federal government has listed 11 species of salmon that spawn in Washington under the Endangered Species Act since 1991. In Puget Sound, only 22 of 31 historic Chinook populations remain. Some of those that remain are lower than 1 percent of their historic numbers. After nearly 10 years of salmon recovery work, Washington is beginning to see some of those salmon populations improve. See salmon status chart.
“Our congressional delegation has been instrumental in helping ensure that salmon recovery remains a top priority and that we take care of this important international resource,” said Bud Hover, chairman of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. “Restoring salmon populations will help Washington State in many ways. It can increase jobs and fishing opportunities as well as improve our lakes, rivers and streams.”
Congress created the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund in 2000 to restore Pacific salmon populations. The fund, along with a state match, is the primary source of funding for salmon recovery in Washington. In Washington, the fund has provided more than $337 million, which along with state matching dollars, has been used to remove nearly 400 barriers that were stopping fish passage, restore nearly 500 miles of land along rivers and streams, restore 3,000 acres of estuaries and shorelines and conserve nearly 30,700 acres of crucial salmon habitat.
The federal Department of Commerce’s NOAA administers the fund and will competitively award the $65 million for Fiscal Year 2012 among the states of Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and California, and to the west coast tribes.
“We are pleased to continue this investment in salmon recovery in the Northwest,” said Will Stelle, NOAA’s Northwest regional administrator. “In addition to improving our environment, salmon restoration projects generate jobs on par with dollars spent on infrastructure projects like roads and highways.”