Barnaby Reach

Barnaby Reach includes side channels of the Skagit River that aren’t fully accessible to fish. Barnaby Slough, pictured, is among them.

In an ongoing effort to help the region’s salmon populations, the state Recreation and Conservation Office announced Thursday an $18 million grant package for projects to protect and restore fish habitat.

Skagit is one of three counties that netted more than $1 million from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board in the annual grant package.

The majority of the $1.1 million awarded in Skagit County will be invested in the Skagit River and its tributaries, and $23,000 in the south fork of the Nooksack River that snakes through land north of Highway 20.

The money will enable the Skagit River System Cooperative to fine-tune plans for restoring Barnaby Reach near Rockport, allow the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group to plant more vegetation along the Skagit River shoreline, help the Skagit Land Trust purchase land along the river and its tributaries, and help Seattle City Light achieve projects along sloughs in the Day Creek area.

Each project is expected to benefit chinook salmon and steelhead trout — which are both listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act — as well as other salmon varieties found in the Skagit River.

“These projects are making a difference, not only to salmon, but to the other animals that rely on salmon for food, such as orcas, and to the people that rely on them for their livelihoods,” Salmon Recovery Funding Board Chair Phil Rockefeller said in a news release. “We also appreciate and value salmon as part of our heritage and want to ensure they will survive for future generations.”

Millions of dollars have been invested in salmon recovery in the Skagit River watershed since the 1990s, when some of the region’s salmon first gained Endangered Species Act protection. The Skagit is the largest river that feeds freshwater into Puget Sound.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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