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Ecology awarding $4.8 million in federal wetland conservation grants for Puget Sound
OLYMPIA — The Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) has secured $4.8 million in federal grants to help acquire and restore 550 acres of tidal wetlands and associated freshwater and upland habitat areas in Island, Jefferson, Kitsap and Mason counties.
“These are worthy, viable restoration projects for Puget Sound,” said DOE Director Maia Bellon. “We have the right experts out in the field evaluating proposals and submitting requests. However, we would not be successful without the dedicated hard work and funding from our public and private partners. Restoring, protecting and preserving Puget Sound is a sustained effort that needs everyone’s involvement.”
“These projects represent an extraordinary opportunity to protect and restore vital ecosystems nearly gone in Puget Sound,” Puget Sound Partnership Executive Director Anthony Wright said. “We must have viable tidal wetlands if we hope to have healthy salmon populations, honor tribal treaty rights and help the Sound recover. These smart investments benefit our economy and environment – and support Action Agenda priorities.”
The $4.8 million comes from the National Wetland Conservation Program and includes $1 million to acquire 225 acres along Port Gamble Bay in north Kitsap County.
The county will manage the project which contains some of the most pristine coastal wetland habitat in the upper Hood Canal area. The acquisition is part of the Kitsap Forest and Bay Project seeking to protect 1.78 miles of shoreline and 6,700 acres surrounding Port Gamble Bay.
During the past 125 years, Puget Sound has lost about 70 percent of its estuarine wetlands and connected habitat areas due to residential, commercial and industrial development.
Estuaries are important to our economy because they help keep erosion in check, control floods, and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation. They also help sustain Washington’s commercial clam, mussel and oyster beds worth more than $107 million annually.
Additionally, Washington’s marine estuaries and connected freshwater wetlands provide vital habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds and other wildlife species and are nurseries for salmon and other marine life.
To permanently protect and restore the sites, DOE is working in partnership with Capitol Land Trust, Kitsap County, North Olympic Salmon Coalition, Northwest Watershed Institute, and Whidbey Camano Land Trust. DOE is also working closely with the state departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources and Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office.
Ecology coordinates its environmental efforts in Puget Sound with the Puget Sound Partnership – the state agency leading the recovery of Puget Sound. The Partnership coordinates the efforts of citizens, governments, tribes, scientists and businesses to set priorities, implement a regional recovery plan and ensure accountability for results. Protecting and restoring habitat is one of the three Strategic Initiatives outlined in the Partnership’s 2012-2013 Action Agenda, the science-based plan to restore Puget Sound.
Since 2006, DOE has received $36 million in federal coastal protection grants to help permanently restore and protect 5,800 acres of estuarine wetlands and related habitat.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service established the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program in 1990. It is designed to help states acquire, restore and enhance coastal wetlands. Funding for the program comes from excise taxes on fishing equipment and motor boat and small engine fuels.