This year, the federal grant program will help local partners including tribal governments and nonprofit land trusts acquire, restore, and enhance about 400 acres of coastal wetlands in Clallam, Mason, Pierce, and Thurston counties. All five projects will help recover salmon that Washington’s endangered Southern Resident orca whales depend on for survival.
The program is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and funded in part through taxes paid on equipment and fuel purchases by recreational anglers and boaters. Established in 1990, the federal conservation program provides up to $1 million for individual wetland projects in coastal and Great Lake states as well as U.S. territories.
Wetlands essential for Washington economic, environmental health
Washington’s wetlands are essential for sustaining the state’s economic and environmental health. Wetlands act as a natural sponge, helping control flooding and erosion by catching and slowing down melting snow and surface water runoff from storms. They purify water by filtering sediments and trapping excess nutrients and pollutants such as heavy metals. Wetlands also hold much of the surface water that trickles through the soil and recharges our underground drinking water aquifers.
If communities had to replace the flood control and water treatment functions Washington’s wetlands naturally provide, the costs could far outweigh the expense of preserving them. A 2008 independent study by Earth Economics found fresh water wetlands in the Puget Sound regional alone could be worth more than $10 billion to the state economy.
Productive ecosystems rivaling rain forests and coral reefs
Our wetlands also offer important refuge for wildlife and fish, including salmon, and places for people to boat, fish, and enjoy other recreation activities. Wetlands bordering or close to the marine waters of Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean can be among the most productive ecosystems in the world, rivaling rain forests and coral reefs. Wetlands also help mitigate climate change by absorbing greenhouse gases.
Although only states can apply for National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grants, we work closely with land trusts, local and tribal governments, and other entities to identify conservation projects in Washington and develop wetland restoration and protection proposals for consideration by USFWS.
Since 2008, we have helped secure federal funding and provided technical assistance for acquisition and restoration projects totaling more than $100 million to conserve more than 11,000 acres of Washington’s coastal wetlands.
This year, Ecology received 22 percent of the total $20.3 million in coastal wetlands grants USFWS awarded nationally. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also received a $1 million USFWS grant to restore a coastal wetland in lower Hood Canal.
Washington’s 2019 coastal wetland conservation projects
Working with local partners, the 2019 federal grants Ecology secured will be used to help fund the following coastal wetland enhancement and restoration projects:
|Baird Cove site in Thurston County. Photo courtesy Eric Erler.|
Elwha Estuary Place site, Clallam County. Photo by John Gussman.
Skookum Valley Wetland Acquisition ($564,000)—Working in partnership with the Squaxin Island Tribe, the funding will be used to help acquire and permanently protect 158 acres of wetlands and shorelines along Skookum Creek that flows directly to Puget Sound in Mason County.
|Sound View Camp property in Pierce County.|
West Oakland Bay restoration site, Mason County.
Photo courtesy Anchor Environmental.
West Oakland Bay Restoration Phase 2 ($1 million)—Working with our Squaxin Island Tribe partner to put the second phase of restoring critical coastal wetlands in place in West Oakland Bay in Mason County. The project will restore 28 acres of saltmarsh, lost when an industrial harbor was created more than a century ago.
Wetlands tools and resources