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Washington Tribes receive nearly $2 million for projects to protect Puget Sound

Release Date: 04/29/2009
Contact Information: Michael Rylko, EPA Seattle, (206) 553-4014,; Tony Brown, EPA Public Affairs, (206) 553-1203,

(Seattle, Wash. – April 29, 2009) Today 19 Tribes will receive grants totaling nearly $2 million for on-the-ground projects to protect and preserve water quality and salmon habitat in the Puget Sound region. The grants support the Puget Sound Partnership’s 2020 Action Agenda.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in partnership with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission will make the grant announcement on the banks of Hansen Creek where the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe will showcase just one of the 19 habitat restoration projects. The Upper Skagit Tribe will receive $105,000 to help restore 140 acres of habitat around the Creek, a tributary to the Skagit River near the Tribe’s reservation.

“Salmon habitat has suffered centuries of abuse,” said Billy Frank Jr., Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “With the help of these EPA grants, the tribes are undoing that damage one step at a time. We all have to work together to get Puget Sound healthy again.”

Puget Sound chinook and steelhead are listed as "threatened" under the federal Endangered Species Act, and Skagit Coho are listed by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife as a species of concern.

“We are very pleased to award these grants and help these tribes continue to do what they have done for centuries: care for their traditional lands in a sustainable way, said Michelle Pirzadeh, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator in Seattle. “We’ve heard the tribes call for action to protect Puget Sound. These grants will directly support the tribes’ ‘shovel ready’ projects that will produce very tangible environmental results.”

Using the grants, tribes will take on a variety of projects including: taking a systematic inventory of fish-blocking culverts; restoring connectivity to floodplains and returning tidal flow to estuaries and building engineered logjams to create covered deep pools where Chinook salmon hold before spawning.

Hansen Creek Project Description:

The Upper Skagit Tribe plans to use the $105,000 to continue the restoration process of 140 acres of habitat around Hansen Creek near the Tribe's reservation.

The freshwater floodplain habitat to be restored includes 53 acres of alluvial fan and 87 acres of forested wetlands in the Skagit County-owned Northern State Recreation Area.

The Hansen Creek basin is home to chinook, coho, chum and pink salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout. However, 50 years of dredging and levy maintenance has degraded spawning habitat and interfered with natural stream processes. Hansen Creek has been straightened, narrowed and disconnected from its floodplain fan and wetlands.

The Upper Skagit Tribe plans to remove parts of the levy and add grade control structures that will restore natural sediment movement and improve salmon habitat. The project will add 330 additional feet of mainstem habitat and 9,450 lineal feet of restored side channel habitat to support fish productivity.

Wood and brush structures will provide instream cover where salmon can rest, rear and forage. A mosaic of tree, shrub and herbaceous plantings will increase canopy cover and cool stream temperatures. This increased vegetative diversity also will improve the complexity of food available to salmon and reduce the possibility of erosion threatening egg survival.

Hansen Creek Project Photos (PDF)(5pp,1MB)


Additional Grant Project Descriptions:

Tribes will receive approximately $100,000 per grant.

Brief Description: This proposal includes two project elements. Element #1 is to support Nooksack Indian Tribe’s efforts to identify, develop and advance implementation status of salmon recovery projects in WRIA 1, the Nooksack River Basin. Element #2 is to provide a portion of the match for a state funded engineered logjam project in the lower South Fork Nooksack River, called SF Nooksack Instream Restoration-Van Zandt. This project is for design and construction of four complex logjams between river miles 0.9-1.4. The goal of the project is to address the habitat factors most limiting the South Fork Nooksack early-entry timed Chinook population in the reach: low habitat diversity, lack of deep pools with cover, and high summer water temperatures. According to the TRT, this population has the highest risk of near-term extinction among the 22 Puget Sound Chinook populations, and the population is also critical to recovery of the Puget Sound Chinook ESU.

Brief Description of Project: Stillaguamish Watershed – Integration of Chinook Recovery Plan into Implementation of Puget Sound Partnership (PSP) Action Agenda. The project will consist of two tasks: For Task 1, we will produce three year work plans for the Stillaguamish watershed that will integrate the local salmon recovery goals with those of the broader PSP Action Agenda, update the Stillaguamish monitoring and adaptive management plan to better reflect recovery goals and priorities, and develop a list of changes (both regional and local) needed in the regulatory arena to ensure that recovery actions are not negated by ongoing, permitted activities. Under Task 2, we will also undertake a watershed wide culvert inventory (building off past efforts), using a systematic approach to find and survey culverts on a variety of ownerships. From this inventory, we will develop a prioritized list of fish passage projects that will guide work in upcoming years.

Brief Description of the Project: Large, mid-channel engineered log jams and smaller wood structures will be positioned in locations that will successfully restore the channel vertical elevation, promote lateral movement and floodplain connectivity, increase gravel sorting and silt retention, and provide pool habitat for adult and juvenile fish. Wood structures are designed to be stationary, and may include smaller structures in the upper reaches of the river. This project will jump-start critical salmon habitat altered in the 1970s when much of the watershed was destroyed by removing virtually all LWD and gravel from the channel. These engineered log jams will ultimately re-create some historical habitat conditions needed to increase the capacity of the Greenwater to support desired fish populations.

Brief Description of Projects: 1) Restoration of nearshore and estuary habitat, 2) evaluating salmonid use of nearshore and estuarine habitat, 3) Restoration of nearshore and upland beach habitat.

Brief Description of Project: The Proposal includes components of multiple projects in support of Puget Sound restoration. They are A) Salmonid Nearshore Habitat Utilization Assessment; B) Skookum Creek Watershed Restoration Activities; and C) South Puget Sound Regional Coordination Project.

Brief Description of Project: Dungeness Drift Cell Protection & Restoration: Research and Planning Phase: This initial phase of protecting and restoring the Dungeness Drift Cell includes analysis of contemporary rates of bluff erosion within the drift cell and development of a subsequent drift cell/feeder bluff protection strategy. The strategy will include a prioritization of land parcels for protection along with a roadmap for future phases of the project. Graphic and written outreach materials will also be developed and distributed and/or presented. Sequim Bay Biotoxin Study: This project will involve concurrent water quality and shellfish tissue sampling and analyses to help determine what natural and human-induced environmental conditions may be contributing to harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Sequim Bay. This information will ultimately be used to help NOAA Fisheries develop an advisory program (early warning system) for HABs so that both the exposure risk to human health and the loss of appropriate economic and recreational uses of the Bay can be minimized.

Brief Project Description: A written description of the relationship between the Lummi Schelangen, or way of life, and the tribal understanding of the ecosystem of WRIA 1 and surrounding estuarine and marine areas. Synthesis of Lummi knowledge and activities in Watershed Management, Salmon Recovery, and the Nearshore Ecosystem to develop lists of projects and implementation actions for each area of recovery. Coordinate with members of the Whatcom Action Area to integrate and prioritize these lists of projects and implementation actions. Coordinate development of a model to describe the likely distribution of juvenile salmonids in Bellingham Bay. Collect and analyze data and prepare a report on the results of juvenile sampling operations in the near shore and open waters of Bellingham Bay and Southern Georgia Strait. Development of issues and representation of North Puget Sound Tribes on the Ecosystem Coordination Board. Helps ensure tribal issues are brought to the ECB and the Puget Sound Partnership and Leadership Council and that PSP issues of relevance to tribes are discussed within tribal forums.

Brief Project Description: Task 1: An investigation of juvenile Chinook salmon use of small non-natal coastal streams in the Whidbey Basin. Task 2: Integration of harvest, hatchery, and habitat management projects in the Snohomish basin salmon recovery plan. Task 3: Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area: Development of Targets and Viability Assessment through a science workshop and follow-up work.

Brief Description of Project: The Nisqually Indian Tribe intends to use these funds to support its role in the implementation of the Puget Sound Partnership Action Agenda and the ongoing development and assessment of actions necessary to achieve success. This funding will support the Nisqually Indian Tribe in its role as a tribal representative on the Ecosystem Coordination Board, the South Puget Sound Action Area, and the Regional Salmon Recovery Council.

Brief Project Description: This project is targeted at restoring habitat conditions for salmon and steelhead in the Upper Skagit and Sauk River basins. Specifically, the proposal addresses riparian degradation, water quality issues, and floodplain impacts by restoring native riparian and floodplain vegetation on 15 acres. In addition, riparian and floodplain habitat inventory work will be completed with the purpose of identifying and prioritizing sites for future habitat restoration projects.

Brief Description of Project: This project will provide the Skokomish Tribe with policy and technical level support to oversee and implement numerous activities. The fish and wildlife policy director will attend various meetings, including the Ecosystem Coordination Board (ECB), Science Recovery Panel, Hood Canal Dissolved Oxygen Program (HCDOP), WRIA 16 & 17, and Puget Sound Partnership (PSP) meetings, in addition to coordinating the sharing of information, recommendations, and data analysis between the Tribal Council and the various stakeholders. The aquatic resources biologist will provide technical assistance to the policy director while also attending meetings with the Hood Canal Dissolved Oxygen Program and WRIA 16 & 17. At the same time he will be assisting in overseeing the implementation of various habitat restoration projects and shellfish research.

Brief Description of Project: Fund the Change Order element of the Mid Puget Sound Fisheries Regional Enhancement Group’s (MSFEG) Barker Creek Estuary Culvert Replacement Project. The larger project replaces the existing 4’ culvert with a 36’ wide bridge to restore estuarine habitat, remove a salmon migration barrier, and restore ecological processes (LWD, sediment, and nutrient transport) to the nearshore that is presently choked off by the culvert. Barker Creek is the second largest salmon producer in Dyes Inlet (after Chico Creek).

Brief Description of Project: Traditional Ecological Knowledge Interpretive Trail and Riparian Restoration at Fall City Park - This project will restore 5.2 acres adjacent to the Snoqualmie River. The project will enhance ecological function of an area known to be critical salmon habitat, while beautifying it and maintaining its recreational value. An interpretive trail for community use will be created to improve understanding of traditional ecological knowledge used in this area before contact, including sustainable harvest of native plants used for food, medicine, housing, clothing and other daily uses.
Brief Description of Project: This project addresses implementation of the Skagit Chinook Recovery Plan and the Puget Sound Action Plan in the Skagit Delta and Whidbey Basin Nearshore basins by initiating implementation toward four goals; 1) Support for the development of an adaptive management framework for the Whidbey basin, incorporating science from the Skagit, Island and other Whidbey Basis Lead Entity areas, 2) Improving shoreline protection by developing a lower river assessment of cumulative impacts from dike construction and maintenance, 3) Conducting feasibility work on a levee setback project on Fir Island. 4) Determining key health indicators of tribal human health concerns as they relate to the health of Puget Sound and its natural resources for inclusion in PSP action agenda.

Brief Description of Project: Funds will contribute to implementation of the Hansen Creek alluvial fan and wetland restoration project that will restore the historic floodplain connectivity, riparian habitat and the hydrologic and sediment transport processes to improve salmon habitat and productivity. The project is a freshwater floodplain restoration of 140 acres of pasture and isolated depressional wetlands to 53 acres of alluvial fan, and 87 acres of riverine forested, flow-through wetlands. The project benefits refuge, rearing, foraging, migration and spawning habitats for Chinook, Coho, Chum, Pink salmon, Steelhead and Cutthroat Trout, and a number of other wildlife species.

Brief Description of Project: This project will study juvenile salmon and steelhead emigrating through the nearshore areas of outer Hood Canal and Port Gamble Bay in order to document and analyze size, condition, growth factor, predation and other constraining environmental mechanisms that affect their early marine life history. The project will help describe the linkages between juvenile growth rates, condition factor and their respective adult marine survival potential. The data will help support and calibrate existing stock assessment and forecasting tools as well as help prioritize and defend associated nearshore habitat restoration projects.

Brief Description of Project: Makah Indian Tribe is located on the most northwestern tip of the continental United States in Washington State, making it an important gateway for Puget Sound water input and oceanographic circulation. The PSP Action Agenda listed the local Warmhouse Beach Open Dump closure as a high priority, and the Straits Action Area listed the threats of oil spills from the marine vessels through Makah’s Usual and Accustomed (U&A) fishing areas as a high priority as well. This project will make a joint effort and combine scientific research and inter-departmental actions to identify the pollution sources of the Makah Reservation, particularly at Cape Flattery, and address marine transportation safety protection measures.

Brief Project Description: A Technical study will be conducted to determine the feasibility and design options for increasing the availability of pool habitat, promote groundwater exchange/hyporheic flow, and expand thermal refuge area at selected tributary mouths and other locations in the Sammamish River to alleviate poor migration conditions for adult Chinook and other salmon. The study will include delineation of existing thermal refuge areas and preparation of site specific habitat restoration designs for priority areas.

Samish Indian Nation
Project Name: Fidalgo Bay Stormwater Nutrient Loading Study and Pre-Oil Spill Baseline Data Collection
Project Description: This project continues to build baseline fecal coliform, nutrient loading and general water quality data for stormwater inputs into the highly productive and culturally important Fidalgo Bay. In addition, this project gathers baseline data in sediment, water column and clam tissue that would be invaluable in case of a catastrophic oil spill from the two refineries and associated oil tankers on Fidalgo Bay, a Washington Department of Natural Resources designated Aquatic Reserve. This work continues to build on successful projects and relationships between the Samish Indian Nation, The City of Anacortes, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Washington Department of Ecology, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Tesoro and Shell Refineries and other stakeholders in this important Puget Sound Estuary.