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Millions invested in salmon recovery by Washington state

The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board has announced nearly $30 million will be distributed via grants to organizations across 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 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."

Organizations in Yakima County will receive $508,887 of the money and organizations in Klickitat County will get $718,400. A Yakama Nation grant for $98,500 has been given for a project that will span Kittitas and Yakima counties.

The projects will reconnect rivers and streams, replace failing pipes that block fish passage and replant riverbanks with the goal of improving places salmon use to reproduce and grow on their way to and from the ocean.

More than half of the money going to Yakima County will be used to restore the City of Yakima's floodplain ecosystem. The other three grants in the county will be used to restore lower Cowiche Creek and the Rattlesnake Creek side channel.

Most of the grant money going into Klickitat County will be used to restore the Klickitat River floodplain, a complex ecosystem that will have an impact on steelhead fisheries. Additional money will go to assessing Rock Creek and designing a fish passage on Buck Creek to bypass the irrigation dam there.

The Yakama Nation is receiving a grant to restore lower Reecer Creek, including replanting the banks of the creek and creating fish habitats.

Salmon populations in Washington have been declining for generations, according to Hover. In 1991, he said 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.

"Salmon recovery does more than just help salmon, it also helps the many businesses dependent on healthy fish populations," said Hover. "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."

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