Of $18 million in grants the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board announced Monday for fish projects in 30 counties, Skagit County netted the largest sum — $1.3 million.
The majority of that funding was awarded to a project sponsored by Seattle City Light and the Skagit Land Trust.
The Salmon Recovery Funding Board awarded about $1 million to that project, which will involve purchasing at least 100 acres in the Skagit River watershed that provides habitat for threatened chinook salmon and steelhead trout.
The watershed includes the Sauk and Cascade rivers as well as tributary streams.
As a requirement of its federal permit to operate dams on the upper Skagit River, Seattle City Light has since the mid-1990s been working to protect and restore salmon habitat in the watershed.
Also in Skagit County, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board awarded the Lummi Nation about $200,000 for a project that will involve putting logjams into the south fork of the Nooksack River, and the Skagit River System Cooperative about $100,000 to evaluate whether habitat conditions in the Skagit River watershed are improving.
The Salmon Recovery Funding Board provides grants to projects aimed at restoring salmon habitat in an effort to bring the iconic fish back from the brink of extinction.
An estimated 75 percent of the projects awarded funding this year will benefit threatened chinook salmon, which the endangered Southern Resident orca whales rely on heavily for food.
“This funding helps protect one of our most beloved legacies,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a news release about the grants. “Together we’re taking a step forward for salmon, and in turn dwindling Southern Resident orca whales.”
Since the creation of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board in 1999, the board has awarded more than $700 million in state and federal funds to projects throughtout the state. With matching funds provided by grant recipients, those projects have invested $987 million in salmon recovery.
“We are committed to restoring salmon populations back to levels that support communities and support people,” David Troutt, chair of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, said in the release. “This funding enables local communities to restore the places salmon live, while also initiating a cascade of other benefits, from less flooding to better water quality, more water in rivers for salmon and other fish, and a boost to our statewide economy.”