Lewis County salmon recovery projects receive more than $1 million in state grant funding

Sep. 20—Lewis County will receive more than $1.3 million and Thurston County will see more than $1.8 million in grant funding as part of a state effort to improve and restore the salmon population.

The state distributed $81.5 million in grants for at-risk populations in total.

Among the local projects funded through the grant are the planting of willow trees in the Mill Creek basin and assessing the chum salmon spawning grounds in the Cowlitz River.

"These are important projects that will help us restore our salmon populations," Gov. Jay Inslee said in a news release. "They also provide many other benefits. When we clean up our rivers, we not only help salmon, we reduce flooding, help our communities adapt to climate change and preserve jobs that rely on healthy salmon and natural resources."

Fourteen salmon population groups in Washington are threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Here is a breakdown of the local projects and entities in Lewis County that will receive funding:

—The Lewis Conservation District received $177,300 to plant plants along a one-third-mile stretch of a stream and 12 acres of land in the Mill Creek Basin. The trees provide shade and a food source for water insects. Both steelhead trout and coho salmon use the creek.

—The Lewis County Public Works Department received $495,750 to restore a fish passage in the Blue Creek tributary, which is used by Chinook, chum and coho salmon and steelhead trout. The county will use the funds to develop plans to improve the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery, remove a bridge and grade the channel.

—Lewis County Public Works will also receive $376,150 to improve fish passage in a Lucas Creek Tributary. The grant will fund the removal of a culvert under Lucas Creek Road, which can create an obstacle for coho salmon and steelhead trout, roughly 4.5 miles from Onalaska.

—The state Department of Fish and Wildlife received $170,000 to assess chum salmon spawning habits in the Cowlitz River. Chum salmon are classified as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. The money will help crews collect data and identify sites more likely to succeed in future spawning.

—The Lower Columbia Fish Enhancement Group received $206,527 to design restoration projects at Camp Singing Wind, which has several creeks and tributaries and a connected wetland. Salmon Creek is one of the largest tributaries into the Cowlitz River, and is used by Chinook, chum, and coho salmon and steelhead trout, which are all classified as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The projects in South Thurston County include:

—The South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group will receive $378,052 to design and fix two barriers on private land. Correcting the first barrier at Equus Lane and Spurgeon Creek will open nearly a mile of habitat upstream. The second project will open up a barrier that will open nearly a quarter mile of cold-water refuge. The river is used by steelhead trout, which is threatened with extinction, and coho salmon, a species of concern.

—The South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group will also receive $325,000 funding to place large woody materials along 18 miles of the Deschutes River and Tributaries. The materials will slow and reduce erosion, create areas for the salmon to spawn, create pools, and create places for salmon to rest, feed and hide from predators.

"Salmon are the foundation and the future of our shared Pacific Northwest identity," said Jeff Breckel, chair of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. "We know what it takes to recover salmon, but the challenges are outpacing our progress. We must stay vigilant and continue to make these important investments."

To see a full list of the grant recipients, go to https://rco.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/NEWS-274-SalmonPSARGrants.pdf.