Kicking off American Wetlands Month by securing $4.5 million in federal conservation grants

Aerial view of Skookum Valley with standing water in wetlands and leaves on trees changing to fall colors.

Skookum Valley wetland acquisition site in Mason County. We secured a $564,000 federal grant to help our Squaxin Island Tribe partner acquire, restore and permanently protect wetlands and shorelines along Skookum Creek that drains to Puget Sound. Photo courtesy Doug Ridenour.

To help celebrate Washington’s wetlands during May — American Wetlands Month — we’re delighted to share we have secured five National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grants worth $4.5 million.

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 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 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

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:

View of Baird Cove with a mirror image of the forested coastline in the still water.

Baird Cove site in Thurston County. Photo courtesy Eric Erler.

Baird Cove Acquisition ($995,000)

Working in partnership with the Nisqually Land Trust to acquire an 88-acre estuarine complex in Thurston County on the east side of Johnson Point in southern Puget Sound, including more than 4,200 feet of intact estuarine shoreline, pristine coastal wetlands and mature forest.

Marine shoreline along the Elwha River estuary.

Elwha Estuary Place site, Clallam County. Photo by John Gussman.

Elwha Estuary Place Acquisition ($1 million)

This collaborative project with the Coastal Watershed Institute will conserve historic Elwha River estuary wetlands and restore marine shoreline along the river delta in Clallam County.

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.

Aerial view of the Sound View Camp waterfront property in Pierce County.

Sound View Camp property in Pierce County.

Sound View Camp Conservation Easement ($950,000)

We are working with our Nisqually Land Trust partner to acquire a permanent conservation easement to protect Sound View Camp, a 93-acre waterfront property on Drayton Passage in southern Puget Sound in Pierce County.

Aerial view of West Oakland Bay, coastal wetlands, and the log yard.

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 

Want to know more? We provide technical assistance and development tools for local governments, consultants, and developers regarding the responsible management, regulation, and stewardship of state wetlands.