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Qwuloolt estuary restoration receives $2 million in economic stimulus funding
TULALIP — The Tulalip Tribes recently received $2 million in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for continuing work on the Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration project, critical to salmon recovery in Puget Sound.
"This community effort will provide regional jobs, cultural restoration, public education and access, and habitat restoration for salmon," Tulalip Tribes Chair Mel Sheldon said. "Thanks to community partnership, this restoration will eventually benefit our area sport, commercial and Tribal fishing."
The NOAA award will provide significant funding for phase II of the $7.8 million Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration project. Overall, the effort will restore 350 acres of wetland that has been deemed critical to the recovery of Snohomish River salmon, particularly endangered Chinook, and to the ecology of the river's estuary. The phase II work to remove fish barriers, including tide gates and 2,000 feet of levee, will also open fish access to 16 miles of stream spawning and rearing habitat in the Allen and Jones creeks, and is expected to create or maintain at least 25 quality area jobs, increase public access opportunities and enhance conservation education.
"These Recovery Act projects will put Americans to work while restoring our coasts and combating climate change," said state Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. "They reflect our investment in sound science, and a commitment to help strengthen local economies."
"NOAA is investing in green jobs for Americans, to restore habitat for valuable fish and wildlife, and to strengthen coastal communities, making them more resilient to storms, sea level rise and other effects of climate change,” said Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator and Commerce under-secretary of oceans and atmosphere. "In addition to the immediate jobs created by the projects, stronger and healthier coastal communities will boost our nation's long-term economic health."
"The Qwuloolt Estuary project will restore estuary habitat lost years ago when the estuary was diked for farming," said Patricia Montanio, director of NOAA's Office of Habitat Conservation. "Bringing back estuary habitat is critical to the recovery of threatened and endangered salmon."
Since the early 1900s, when the Marysville marshes were drained, the area has been cut off by dikes from the natural tidal and river influences of the Snohomish River estuary. This elimination of natural fish breeding and rearing habitat devastated salmon populations in Puget Sound and forced a "band aid" solution of hatchery fish production in the area.
"This recovery project will help keep our environment clean and our economy moving," U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said. "Restoring and protecting our waterways is a priority for Washington state, and I am excited that this project is receiving federal support."
"Restoring estuary habitat and wetlands is essential to protecting threatened and endangered salmon," U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell said. "I applaud the decision of NOAA to invest so seriously in repairing wildlife habitats, strengthening coastal communities and creating green jobs."
The Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration Project is overseen by a federal, state and Tribal planning team, composed of representatives from the Tulalip Tribes, NOAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Washington Department of Ecology. Additional federal, state, regional and private planning partners in the project include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the city of Marysville, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and two non-profits — the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Stilly Snohomish Fisheries Enhancement Task Force. The Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration project is also supported by the Snohomish Basin Forum, the 39-member voluntary group composed of local citizens, businesses, Tribal representatives, farmers and elected officials who guide conservation efforts in the watershed.
The $2 million in NOAA American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds will round out nearly $2.5 million in local, state and federal grants and $3.3 million in anticipated U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding for the project.