Ecology secures $5 million in federal grants to help partners conserve five coastal wetlands

Water and coast line at Barnum Point.

Barnum Point on east side of Camano Island in Island County. Photo courtesy Benjamin Drummond.

May is American Wetlands Month. To highlight the vital ecological, economic, and social health benefits wetlands provide Washington, we are pleased to announce Ecology has been awarded $5 million in federal National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grants to help protect, restore, and preserve five crucial coastal wetlands in Clallam, Island, Kitsap, and Skagit counties.

The federal program, managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USF&WS), provides up to $1 million in funding for individual wetland conservation projects located in coastal and Great Lake states as well as U.S. territories. The program is funded in part through taxes paid on equipment and fuel purchases by recreational anglers and boaters.

While only states can apply for the coastal wetlands grants, we work in close partnership 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 USF&WS.

With five $1 million individual federal wetland conservation awards, Ecology received more program grants in 2018 than any other state agency in the nation. In the past decade alone, we have helped secure federal funding and provided technical assistance for projects totaling nearly $86 million to conserve more than 10,000 acres of coastal wetlands in Washington.

‘Kidneys’ of watersheds

Sometimes referred to as the “kidneys” of a watershed, wetlands are renowned for improving water quality by removing excess nutrients, toxic substances, and sediments from the water that flows through them.

Wetlands help safeguard the overall health of community water supplies by helping filter and slowly recharge underground sources of water. Wetlands help reduce flood damages by soaking up rain and storing flood waters. These ecosystems provide critical habitat for plants, wildlife, and fish, including salmon. Wetlands are an effective and economical way to enhance community safety while improving quality of life.

Restoring coastal wetlands in Clallam County

Drift wood, sandy beach, coastline of Elwha River Delta.

Elwha River delta. Photo courtesy Jamie Michel.

We were awarded a $1 million grant for the Elwha River Delta Acquisition and Restoration project. We are working in close partnership with the Coastal Watershed Institute to conserve and restore critical coastal wetlands at the mouth of the Elwha River in Clallam County. The project will:

  • Protect and restore 3.25 acres of coastal wetlands at the site of a former delta channel in the Elwha River
  • Complete the restoration of 2 acres of marine shoreline that was part of a previous conservation project to remove derelict shoreline armoring

This conservation effort will help maximize the environmental benefits associated with removing the Elwha River dams and is part of a broader effort by local partners to protect the river corridor, from its headwaters to the estuary. 

Aerial view of the Lower Dungeness floodplain and Dungeness bay.

Lower Dungeness floodplain.

Another $1 million grant will be used for the Lower Dungeness Floodplain Restoration project. We are working with Clallam County to reconnect the lower Dungeness River to its historic channels and floodplain, ensuring the perpetual conservation and restoration of wetlands, floodplain, and shoreline along one of the most important river systems on the Olympic Peninsula.  This first phase effort will benefit more than 100 fish and wildlife species currently using the site, including four salmon species.

Protecting estuarine and freshwater wetlands on Hood Canal

Aerial view of a wetland on the lower Big Beef Creek and Hood Canal.

Big Beef Creek; photo courtesy Brandon Palmer

After securing a $1 million grant for the Big Beef Creek Estuary Acquisition, we are working in partnership with the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group to acquire and protect 126 acres of estuary, freshwater wetland, and riparian habitat in Kitsap County. This property on the lower Big Beef Creek feeds into Hood Canal on the west side of the Kitsap Peninsula. The project will result in the conservation of a complex, functional, and truly connected coastal wetland ecosystem critical to many salmon species.

Preserving, enhancing coastal wetlands in Island and Skagit counties

We are using a $1 million grant for the Barnum Point Phase 2 Acquisition project and working in close partnership with Island County to acquire 30 acres of Puget Sound waterfront property on the east side of Camano Island. The project is located in Port Susan Bay, within the greater Skagit and Stillaguamish river delta. This area is considered one of the most important places on Washington's northwest coast for estuarine and nearshore conservation due to its biodiversity and key role in supporting dozens of important estuarine-dependent species.

Marine coastline and feeder bluff with forested upland.

Guemes Island coastal acquisition project.

We will provide $1 million in federal coastal wetland grant funding toward the Guemes Island Coastal Acquisition project and are working in partnership with the Skagit Land Trust to acquire and permanently protect 143 acres on Guemes Island in Skagit County. This project will conserve:

  • More than 4,000 feet of marine coastline — including nearly 30 acres of feeder bluffs and associated coastal forest uplands.
  • About 116 acres of marine shoreline and the largest coastal wetland ecosystem on the island including freshwater wetlands, meadows, and creeks.

Wetlands tools and resources

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