14 regenerative projects in Washington state to get $74.4 million to restore ecology, boost climate resilience and revitalize economies

On April 21, 2023, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce has recommended $74.4 million for projects across Washington state to revitalize communities and make the economy more resilient to climate change, as part of the Investing in America agenda.

Across Washington, 14 projects will create jobs and regenerate both economic and environmental outcomes for coastal communities.

The awards are made under the Biden Administration’s Climate-Ready Coasts initiative, funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) with additional funds leveraged from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

I am proud to recommend funding for 14 critical projects that will help make coastal Washington communities and their diverse habitats resilient to climate change and severe weather,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

This historic investment would not be possible without Senator Cantwell, Senator Murray, and the entire Washington congressional delegation’s tireless advocacy for combating climate change in Washington and across the United States,” she added.

Administered by the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Climate-Ready Coasts initiative is focused on investing in high-impact projects that create climate solutions by storing carbon; build resilience to coastal hazards such as extreme weather events, pollution and marine debris; restore coastal habitats that help wildlife and humans thrive; build the capacity of underserved communities and support community-driven restoration; and provide employment opportunities.

The historic investments powered by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act would not be possible without the leadership of champions in Congress,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D.

NOAA is proud to recommend these projects to help coastal communities invest in their future and build resilience to the impacts of climate change,” he continued.

These projects are part of NOAA’s nearly $6 billion total investment under BIL and IRA.

Recommended projects and funding amounts in Washington include:

High-Impact and Large Marine Debris Removal throughout the National Marine Sanctuary System
National Marine Sanctuary Foundation: $14.9 million
Funding Source: Marine Debris Removal Competition
This project will remove large marine debris from five national marine sanctuaries and two Tribal ancestral waters located off the coasts of Washington, California, Texas and Louisiana including the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and Neah Bay, in partnership with the Makah Tribe and Quileute Tribe.

Transformational Chinook Recovery in South Whidbey Basin Watershed
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: $12.1 million
Funding Source: Transformational Habitat Restoration and Coastal Resilience Grants
This project will restore 1,200 acres within the South Whidbey Basin of Puget Sound. They will implement seven restoration projects and continue work to develop five future projects. The Whidbey Basin contains Puget Sound’s three biggest salmon producing rivers and nearly 70 percent of its remaining tidal wetlands, which salmon and steelhead trout rely on for spawning and rearing habitat. While significant as a stand alone effort, when leveraging the North Whidbey Basin work, the efforts are of a combined scale that will significantly contribute to eliminating estuary habitat as a limiting factor for threatened Puget Sound Chinook salmon and steelhead. The work will also benefit Southern Resident killer whale, a NOAA Species in the Spotlight.

North Whidbey Basin Chinook and Ecosystem Recovery: Skagit River Estuary
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: $11.6 million
Funding Source: Transformational Habitat Restoration and Coastal Resilience Grants
This project will conduct large-scale restoration in the North Whidbey basin of the Skagit River estuary in Puget Sound, building on more than two decades of NOAA-supported restoration work in the watershed. The scale of restoration of estuary marsh and floodplain habitat will result in significant progress in eliminating habitat as a limiting factor for salmon recovery. The work is expected to reduce flooding on county roadways and tribal lands. Two of the sites are located on Swinomish Indian Tribal Community land and will be managed by the Skagit River System Cooperative, an organization governed by the Swinomish and Sauk-Suiattle Tribes.

Lower Big Quilcene River and Estuary Restoration Project – Moon Valley Reach Construction Phase
Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group: $9.6 million
Funding Source: Transformational Habitat Restoration and Coastal Resilience Grants
This project will restore habitat in the Big Quilcene River and estuary, benefiting threatened Puget Sound Chinook salmon and other key species. Channelization, dredging, and bank armoring have disconnected the river from its floodplain and confined it to an artificially straight and high-energy channel that frequently floods. Through this project, the river will be reconnected to its entire 140-acre floodplain, eliminating flood hazards within the community of Quilcene. The project will also create highly productive salmon spawning and rearing habitat in a high-priority location.

Lower East Fork Lewis Floodplain Reclamation
Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership: $7.5 million
Funding Source: Transformational Habitat Restoration and Coastal Resilience Grants
This project will restore habitat along three miles of the lower East Fork Lewis River that has been severely impacted by legacy gravel mining and residential development. This river has been identified as a critical watershed for recovery for Lower Columbia River Chinook salmon, which is known as a significant portion of the diet for endangered Southern Resident killer whales, a NOAA Species in the Spotlight. The project will restore and reconnect a formerly-mined floodplain, remove levees, and restore habitat in and along streams.

Lower South Fork Nooksack Chinook Recovery 2023-2025
Nooksack Indian Tribe: $5.2 million
Funding Source: Transformational Habitat Restoration and Coastal Resilience Grants
This project will address priority habitat limiting factors for salmon and steelhead trout in the South Fork Nooksack River. Declining populations of Chinook salmon and other species have had significant impacts on the Nooksack Tribe’s cultural, subsistence, and commercial fisheries. By increasing habitat complexity and increasing the number of cool water pools in the region to address summer low flows of water, this work will support multiple life stages of salmon and enhance their resilience to climate change. The effort will encompass construction of two projects and the design of a third. The work will help reduce flood risk to the nearby Town of Acme through increased water storage and construction of a berm.

South Fork Nooksack River Restoration Project
Lummi Nation: $4.2 million
Funding Source: Transformational Habitat Restoration and Coastal Resilience Grants
This investment will advance three high-priority salmon habitat restoration projects along the South Fork Nooksack River. Salmon in the Nooksack River watershed are critically important to the livelihood, culture, and well-being of the Lummi Nation, but degraded habitat has led the abundance of several fish stocks to diminish substantially from historical levels. This work will support Endangered Species Act-listed Puget Sound Chinook and steelhead trout, and benefit Southern Resident killer whales, a NOAA Species in the Spotlight, by supporting their prey. The work will increase flood resilience, improve water quality, and enhance tribal fisheries.

Graveyard Spit Restoration & Resilience Project
Washington State Department of Transportation: $3.9 million
Funding Source: Coastal Zone Management Habitat Protection and Restoration Grants
This investment will result in the restoration and protection of Graveyard Spit, on the north shore of Willapa Bay, to help protect community infrastructure and cultural resources that are threatened by sea level rise and other coastal hazards. The project will include the rehabilitation and revegetation of the historic barrier dune; the construction of a nature-based cobble berm; and the protection and restoration of backshore marsh and tidal embayment environments.

Padilla Bay Samish Conservation Area Protection Project
Washington State Department of Ecology: $2.3 million
Funding Source: National Estuarine Research Reserve System Habitat Protection and Restoration Grants
This project, which will allow Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to protect and restore 74.5 acres of former and current tidal marsh, is part of a larger overall effort to restore up to 105 acres of tidal marsh to Padilla Bay. The project will increase climate resilience by reducing flood risk for the only road and utility corridor that services the Samish Island community. The project will also restore tribal cultural connections with the site, which is near an important historical longhouse location. Access to the area, and the natural resources that once flourished on the site, will be restored.

Building Capacity to Inventory Eelgrass Habitat on Lummi Nation Tidelands Threatened by Invasion of the European Green Crab
Lummi Nation: $868,000
Funding Source: Coastal Habitat Restoration and Resilience Grants for Underserved Communities
The Lummi Nation will conduct an assessment to help determine the potential risk that invasive European green crabs pose to eelgrass beds on Lummi Reservation tidelands. They will build staff capacity, acquire the necessary equipment and training, and engage indigenous high school and college students to conduct an inventory and establish baselines of the current status of eelgrass habitat and European green crabs.

Restoration for All (R4A)
Edmonds College: $817,000
Funding Source: Coastal Habitat Restoration and Resilience Grants for Underserved Communities
Edmonds College, in partnership with the Latino Educational Training Institute and Snohomish Conservation District, will create a bilingual workforce development program to educate and train members of the Latino community in the restoration field. The program will include paid internship opportunities, providing participants with hands-on experience restoring salmon habitat in the Stillaguamish and Snohomish watersheds.

Skagit Estuary Treaty Resource Recovery
Skagit River System Cooperative: $649,000
Funding Source: Coastal Habitat Restoration and Resilience Grants for Underserved Communities
The Skagit River System Cooperative, which provides fisheries and environmental services for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe, will restore estuary habitat to support the recovery of tribal fisheries in the Skagit River. Tribal members will engage in the development of several projects in the Skagit River watershed, in areas that are a priority for Chinook salmon recovery.

Building Capacity for the Nisqually Indian Tribe to Integrate Habitat Restoration into the Interstate 5 Redesign Planning Process to Reduce Flood Risk and Increase Climate Resilience
Long Live the Kings: $502,000
Funding Source: Coastal Habitat Restoration and Resilience Grants for Underserved Communities
Long Live the Kings will build capacity for the Nisqually Indian Tribe to incorporate their vision and voice into restoration in the Nisqually River Delta. They will integrate the tribe’s priorities for habitat restoration and nature-based solutions to reduce flooding, increase climate resilience, and support salmon. The increased capacity will help ensure the tribe’s Traditional Ecological Knowledge and vision for habitat restoration is reflected in the replacement of an Interstate 5 bridge.

Washington CoastSavers Clean Coast Quest
Washington Sea Grant: $299,000
Funding Source: Marine Debris Community Action Coalitions
In partnership with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Washington CoastSavers, this project will support annual beach cleanups in Washington state, work with the Quinault Indian Nation to expand cleanup and outreach education efforts, and contribute large marine debris data to MyCoast, a Washington Department of Natural Resources database, to understand the scope of the marine debris issue, encourage stewardship and provide an informed assessment to be used in future removal efforts.

Many public leaders applauded the funding:

A majority of Washington state families live in coastal communities and know all too well what’s at stake in our own backyards with rising sea levels and more extreme weather events. We’ve got to tackle climate change and prepare our coastlines to respond to the serious threats it poses—and that’s what exactly this funding will help do,” said Senator Patty Murray.

Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, we’re delivering much-needed resources to address the climate crisis, restore critical coastal habitats, and strengthen coastal communities’ ability to prepare for and respond to rising sea levels and extreme weather events through NOAA’s Climate-Ready Coasts Initiative. These federal dollars are going to make a big difference for coastal communities and tribes here in Washington state—supporting work to restore coastal habitat, strengthen salmon recovery, and prepare communities to weather and respond to more flooding and more intense storms,” she explained.

These grants will support 14 transformative conservation projects across the State of Washington from the Columbia River, to Hood Canal, the Nooksack, Nisqually, and Skagit Rivers, and all the way to Willapa Bay and the Olympic Coast,” said Senator Maria Cantwell. “This investment will help make progress on salmon recovery, eel grass beds restoration, and removal of invasive European green crabs, and help communities and Tribes mitigate the impacts of climate change.”

We passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act in Congress in part to help communities better respond to the effects of the climate crisis. This funding announcement does exactly that by providing millions of dollars for infrastructure projects across the state that will improve the readiness of coastal communities,” said Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09). “In the Puget Sound region, these investments will advance crucial habitat restoration efforts that will reduce flooding from increasing weather events, protect salmon and other wildlife, and make our region more resilient for all communities that live here.

Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, Northwest Washington coastal communities will have the funding and resources needed to invest in solutions to boost climate resilience, restore salmon and steelhead habitat, reduce flooding and protect against invasive species,” said Congressman Rick Larsen (WA-02), the lead Democrat on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. “I will continue to work with local leaders and stakeholders and the Administration to fully implement these historic laws to combat climate change and build cleaner, greener, safer and more accessible communities in the Pacific Northwest and across the country.

Folks in Washington’s coastal communities are already feeling the impacts of climate change,” said Congressman Derek Kilmer (WA-06). “The Climate Ready Coasts initiative, made possible through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, will help deliver critical funds in our region for estuary restoration, marine debris removal and to keep our beaches clean. These funds reflect a powerful commitment to protecting marine ecosystems, enhancing our ability to respond to climate change, and keeping our commitments to tribal nations. These projects will create jobs, protect our environment, and provide more security for folks living along our coasts.

Climate change is having devastating impacts on our roads, bridges, public transit systems, and power grids, especially those on our coasts,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07). “As natural disasters get more severe and extreme weather becomes the standard, we must ensure that our coastal infrastructure is resilient in the face of stronger and more frequent storms and flooding. I’m thrilled to see funding from the Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act go toward projects throughout Washington State to both combat the climate crisis and prioritize resilient coasts. These investments will directly support our communities that are most impacted by the climate crisis while creating good paying, union jobs and making us all safer.”

The South Sound’s coastal communities have been disproportionately impacted by climate change,” said Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10). “This federal funding recognizes the importance of investing in the South Sound and in protecting our coastal treasures. Democrats are delivering to shore up our communities, ensure resilience, and create jobs.”

Southwest Washington’s economy, businesses, and communities depend on healthy coasts and waterways,” said Congresswoman Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03). “This investment is essential to protecting our environment and way of life while creating good-paying jobs.

Photo of Whidbey Island Bridge by Ken Haines from Pixabay.

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