Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that The Nature Conservancy’s Fisher Slough project will receive support from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to create new jobs for 50 people and restore 60 acres of freshwater tidal marsh habitat and fish passage through the slough, while improving flood protection for the local community.
“This project demonstrates the power of partnership,” said Karen Anderson, Washington director of The Nature Conservancy. “In the Skagit Delta, where farming and fisheries interests have been at odds for many years, conservation groups, fisheries interests, the agricultural community and local governments have come together to collaborate on a project that restores salmon habitat, protects property owners from floods, and sustains the viability of the farmers who live and work there.”
“We also want to thank Sen. Maria Cantwell for her strong advocacy for funding for NOAA to accomplish environmental restoration work, as well as Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Rick Larsen for their support,” she said.
Fisher Slough is a tidally influenced wetland and farmland complex located in the Skagit River delta. The Conservancy is partnering with Skagit County, Dike District 3, Drainage and Irrigation District 17, Western Washington Agricultural Association and others on this $7.6 million project, which received $5.2 million in stimulus funding. The project will install new floodgates that allow increased fish passage and tidal water on the site, reroute a drainage ditch away from the restoration site, and set back a levee to make room for marsh habitat and enable the floodplain to absorb floodwaters.
“It’s taken the knowledge, trust, and experience of all these partners to develop such a strong project,” said Jenny Baker, who is leading the project for the Conservancy.
The NOAA funding will create 50 new jobs and maintain an additional 13 existing jobs. The Fisher Slough project has also created or maintained an additional eight jobs from other funding sources. About half the jobs are on-the-ground construction and landscaping, the rest include design, engineering, environmental, and monitoring work.
Restoration will be implemented in three phases: 1) floodgate replacement (summer 2009); 2) drainage ditch relocation (summer 2010); and 3) levee setback, creek and marsh restoration (summer 2010 and 2011).
Restoration activities will restore 60 acres of freshwater tidal marsh, which will provide salmon habitat while restoring the function of natural streams and a floodplain, improve water quality, and reduce erosion within the site. The project will also improve passage to 15 miles of high quality salmon spawning and rearing stream habitat, and reduce damage from flooding within the lowlands of the 23-square-mile watershed. Pre-project fish monitoring is being completed by Skagit River System Cooperative, a tribal natural resource consortia with extensive expertise in fisheries and salmon habitat restoration.
The project received critical start-up money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the first few phases were made possible through the support of multiple funders, including the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, the Skagit Watershed Council, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and private donors.
In addition, the Conservancy received funding for seven other coastal restoration projects across the United States, to restore and protect coral reefs, oyster reefs, seagrass beds, salt marshes, salmon streams, and floodplains.Marine habitats such as these provide people and nature with a variety of essential services such as water filtration, protection from the effects of natural disasters and storm surges, fisheries, as well as economic and recreational opportunities.
“During the selection process, NOAA received over 800 proposals totaling more than $3 billion in requests for restoration funding, yet only $160 million in NOAA funding was available,” said Lynne Hale, Director of the Global Marine Program at The Nature Conservancy.“This overwhelming response demonstrates the profound need for increased restoration and the stewardship of our oceans and coasts,” added Hale.
For nearly 10 years, the Conservancy and NOAA have worked in partnership to implement community-based restoration projects at sites across the United States.The projects selected under ARRA will employ nearly 450 people who will devote more than 500,000 hours of labor to the engineering, project management, contracting, planting, and monitoring associated with completing these eight projects over the next two to two and a half years. The Conservancy will begin work immediately in Alaska, Alabama, California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, US Virgin Islands, Virginia and Washington.
For more information about the Conservancy’s marine work, visit: www.nature.org/marine
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.