East Fork

The East Fork Lewis River June 5, 2019.

The state Salmon Recovery Funding Board late last month announced $18 million in grant funding for fish habitat restoration projects throughout the state, with roughly $696,654 of those funds directed to Clark County projects.

The annual grants will go to 91 projects throughout the state that will work to repair rivers, remove barriers blocking fish passage and replant river banks in an effort to help struggling salmon populations and to recover the fish species “from the brink of extinction,” a news release says.

The grants approved by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board will look to open 45 miles of habitat to salmon, restore more than 217 miles of stream and 292 acres of estuary and conserve nearly 64 miles of stream.

The funding from the grants will also work to remove 20 fish barriers throughout the state.

“These grants are the lifeblood of our salmon recovery efforts in Washington state,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a prepared statement. “They fund the core of our efforts and attract $37.5 million from other sources. These grants, along with the hard work invested by thousands of people working in our state to save salmon, have gone a long way to slowing the decline of salmon.”

Funding allocated for Clark County will go to preservation efforts and studies in the East Fork Lewis River, the Horseshoe Falls area and the Columbia River Watershed.

Grant recipients for projects in the county include the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board, the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership and the Columbia Land Trust.

The Columbia Land Trust will use the approximate $337,869 it receives to purchase 21.3 acres near Horseshoe Falls, located on the East Fork Lewis River.

“By preserving the falls and surrounding forestland, the project will support fish and other wildlife habitat in and around the river, water quality and other natural processes,” the project’s description reads.

The habitat pools below the falls are often used to keep migrating steelhead cool in the summer.

The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership will utilize its $161,505 in grant funding to develop preliminary plans to construct 1,200 feet of concrete and boulder along the East Fork Lewis River in order to reconnect a pair of tributaries to the river, improve the function of a nearby floodplain and restore the habitat of native plants.

The Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board will use its $129,000 to better understand the scope of land change that has happened in the Columbia Watershed in Clark, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife will utilize its $68,280 to calculate, transmit and store hatchery fish population data already gathered to understand their effect on wild salmon and recovery efforts.

“These projects make a difference,” Salmon Recovery Funding Board Chair Phil Rockefeller said in a prepared statement, “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 livelihood. We also appreciate and value salmon as part of our heritage and want to ensure they will survive for future generations.”

There are currently 17 species of salmon, steelhead and bull trout fish in Washington that have been put on the federal Endangered Species Act list, according to the news release. Fish populations have been recorded at historic lows in recent years as their habitat has been threatened by increased regional population.

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