The Northwest office of the Environmental Protection Agency recently announced today through its National Estuary Program it is providing $25.2 million in grant funds to state, local and tribal Puget Sound recovery and conservation efforts.
“A healthy Puget Sound is vital to the environmental and economic health of Washington state,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA is succeeding in protecting and restoring habitats and water quality by supporting local partners and projects.”
Among the efforts funded in whole or in part with National Estuary Program funds announced are:
- The restoration of an additional 5,000 acres of key Orca and salmon habitat;
- The re-opening of about 4,000 acres of shellfish beds in Puget Sound; and
- Improvement of biological condition from fair to good for at least 30 streams.
EPA distributes its National Estuary Program funds to Washington’s Department of Ecology, Department of Health, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Commerce, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Washington State University’s Stormwater Center, the Puget Sound Partnership, and the University of Washington’s Puget Sound Institute.
These agencies then fund projects that meet the goals of both the National Estuary Program and the Puget Sound Action Agenda which is developed by the Puget Sound Partnership, the state agency charged with leading the state’s collective efforts to restore and protect Puget Sound. The Puget Sound Institute conducts and funds scientific research that informs decision-making.
Since 2006 Congress has appropriated $212 million in National Estuary Program funds that EPA has used to help restore over 49,752 acres of habitat (64 square miles), and to protect over 140,000 acres of shellfish beds. Other success stories over the last decade include:
- A net increase of approximately 5,000 acres of safe, harvestable shellfish beds restored;
- Removal of 1,006 creosote treated pilings in Northern Hood Canal and Chambers Creek to protect spawning herring populations and reduce embryo mortality. NEP’s cumulative investment of approximately $967,000 for all removals (and monitoring) in these two areas, inspired the state legislature to appropriate $2.5 in 2014 for other removals; and
- Re-opening 1.5 miles of Coho spawning and rearing habitat in the upper Skagit River by the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe. The projects helped restore natural watershed processes critical to flood management.
In addition to providing grant funds, through the National Estuary Program and other programs, EPA experts provide their scientific expertise to local, state, tribal, industry, and NGOs on strategy development, and are typically involved in scientific research and restoration projects throughout the watershed.
Encompassing 8 million acres of rivers, bays, beaches and shorelines, the Puget Sound watershed serves as an economic and cultural hub for the region’s more than 4.7 million people, including 19 federally recognized tribes.