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Kent receives $253,000 grant for salmon recovery project along Green River

The city of Kent received a $253,581 grant Monday from the Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board for a Green River project along Frager Road to help increase survival of juvenile Chinook salmon.

Known as the Downey Farmstead project, the work will balance flooding, fish and farming objectives in an area that has been identified as critical to increase survival of juvenile Chinook salmon, according to a state Recreation and Conservation Office media release.

The board announced Monday nearly $30 million in grants to organizations around the state to help bring salmon back from the brink of extinction.

“These grants do two things: They provide needed money for local organizations to help repair damaged rivers and streams and protect the most pristine areas,” said Don “Bud” Hover, chair of the state funding board. “They also create jobs. They will put people to work improving the environment and restoring something that is important to Washington’s economy: salmon.”

A state Department of Fish and Wildlife study in 2006 pegged the economic impacts of commercial and recreational fishing in Washington as supporting an estimated 16,374 jobs and $540 million in personal income. This new round of grants is expected to provide more than 300 jobs during the next four years.

The Kent project is scheduled to be constructed in 2013.

City staff will use the grant to complete the design and get permits for a project to realign Frager Road to allow creation of a side channel network and expanded floodplain at the Downey farmstead on the south bank of the Green River.

The goal of the project is to create habitat for Chinook salmon to rear, rest and hide from predators. A secondary goal is to create additional flood storage to help alleviate flooding in urban and agricultural areas.

The road alignment will provide a greater buffer from the river and will continue to be open to vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian access adjacent to river. Kent will contribute $46,419 from a local grant.

The city acquired four parcels of land totaling 21.81 acres that comprised the former Downey Farmstead adjacent to Frager Road South and State Route 516, according to city documents. Three of the parcels were purchased with Salmon Recovery Funding Board Grant funds in 2003.

The current condition of the project area is vacant and undeveloped. Most of the site is overgrown with dense vegetation growth, including blackberries. The western parcel has been cleared and graded due to recent demolition and removal of buildings and structures used for the former nursery. This work was completed by the city in 2010 through a grant funded by the King Conservation District.

The middle two parcels are vacant and undeveloped. The eastern parcel, a former slaughterhouse, consists of mowed grass and a small vehicle parking area maintained by the city.

“Salmon recovery does more than just help salmon, it also helps the many businesses dependent on healthy fish populations,” said Hover, who also is an Okanogan County commissioner. “There are many families that rely on salmon, from your mom-and-pop tackle shops to your large commercial fishing fleets. They all need salmon and trout populations to be healthy and harvestable.”

Salmon populations in Washington have been declining for generations. In 1991, the federal government declared the first salmon, Snake River sockeye, as endangered. By the end of that decade, populations had dwindled so much that salmon and bull trout were listed as threatened or endangered in three-quarters of the state. Those listings set off a series of activities including the formation of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board to oversee the investment of state and federal funds for salmon recovery.

Funding for the grants comes from the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and from the sale of state bonds. In addition, nearly $11.6 million is dedicated to projects in Puget Sound, as part of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s initiative to restore the health of Puget Sound.

“Salmon recovery is key to restoring Puget Sound,” said Gerry O’Keefe, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, which is charged with developing a plan for improving the health of Puget Sound. “If we can improve the rivers, streams, lakes and other water bodies so we have healthier salmon, we’ll also have healthier places for other fish, wildlife and humans. These grants are an important step in righting past damage done to the environment.”

Information about the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Recreation and Conservation Office is available online at www.rco.wa.gov.


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