Salmon habitat restoration projects around the state were awarded more than $42 million in grants from the Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board and Puget Sound Partnership last week.
Of that, $3.5 million was awarded to nine Skagit County projects sponsored by state and local agencies.
Each of the projects will remove barriers that prevent salmon from migrating and reshape rivers and replant riverbanks so there are more places for salmon to spawn, feed, rest, hide from predators and transition from freshwater to saltwater.
“Salmon are an important part of both Washington’s culture and economy,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a prepared statement. “… I am very pleased with the work of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and its efforts to fund projects that help our economy and assure future generations of Washingtonians can enjoy the return of wild salmon.”
While some local projects may take up to two years to get off the ground, a $1.2 million project to restore fish passage in Davis Slough, across the Skagit River from Hamilton and east of Day Creek, is planned to move forward in 2014.
The Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group and Skagit County are working together on the project, which involves the county’s South Skagit Highway and Seattle City Light’s Iron Mountain property.
To improve fish passage from the Skagit River to Davis Slough, a 4-foot culvert near highway milepost 13.9 will be replaced with a 60-foot-long bridge. To improve water flow into the slough from Marietta Creek on Iron Mountain, an 18-inch culvert will be replaced with an 8-foot culvert.
Riparian vegetation will also be planted along the streams, in coordination with Seattle City Light.
Davis Slough offers 4.5 acres of high quality rearing habitat and 4,000 feet of low-gradient tributary habitat off-channel in the Middle Skagit River floodplain. The habitat is beneficial for juvenile salmon, including Chinook and Coho, as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout, Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group restoration manager Sue Madsen said.
The slough is an old side channel of the Skagit River that provides cold, clear, clean and calm water for juvenile fish, as well as refuge during winter floods, Madsen said.
Small culverts tend to get clogged and block fish from accessing the prime waters.
“That type of habitat used to be very common when the river moved back and forth across the flood plain,” Madsen said. “Those areas have been lost with development, flood control and agriculture.”
The Davis Slough project began with a 2010 study to determine what kind of structure would provide fish passage and maintain the road.
The groups involved are working on a contract, plan to go to bid in early 2014 and start building by summer, Madsen said. They will also host a public meeting to update the Day Creek community about the project, which will be scheduled in the spring.
Other local projects are sponsored by Skagit County Public Works, Skagit Land Trust, Seattle City Light, Skagit River System Cooperative and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Each project will contribute to the Skagit Chinook Recovery Plan and benefit other species in the process, Skagit Watershed Council Executive Director Richard Brocksmith said.
The grant money came from the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, the sale of state bonds and the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund, which is jointly approved by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Puget Sound Partnership for projects that will help restore Puget Sound.