World Fish Migration Day and the District’s Role Restoring Vital Habitat for Migrating Salmon

Steven SchauerUncategorized

By Steven Schauer, Deputy Executive Director

Join us in celebrating World Fish Migration Day!

World Fish Migration Day (May 25, 2024) is more than just an observance; it’s a global movement to highlight the intricate connections between migratory fish, ecosystems, and human communities. Celebrated every two years, this day serves as a reminder of the importance of free-flowing rivers for sustaining fish populations and the broader ecosystem. At the heart of World Fish Migration Day is the World Fish Migration Foundation, orchestrating events worldwide to promote awareness and action for the conservation of migratory fish and their habitats.

World Fish Migration Day logo

This year’s theme, Free Flow, highlights the vital connection between healthy rivers and thriving fish populations. The theme underscores the necessity of unimpeded river systems for the flourishing of not only migrating fish but also other aquatic and terrestrial species. Here at the King County Flood Control District (KCFCD), we’re proud to support this cause!

KCFCD’s Commitment to Habitat Restoration

Salmon are a cornerstone of our Pacific Northwest ecosystem. They connect mountains to oceans, providing food for countless species and enriching our cultural heritage. As pointed out in our May 9th blog (Celebrate American Wetlands Month: Nature’s Unsung Heroes), here in the Puget Sound region, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Threatened Chinook salmon rely on freshwater streams, estuaries, and wetlands during their early life (Image: Chinook juvenile salmon captured for tagging by the Green River Screw Trap).

The Chinook salmon then become a primary food source for the ESA Endangered Southern Resident killer whale. But the migratory journeys of Chinook salmon and other migrating fish species face many challenges, including habitat loss in rivers.

That’s where the KCFCD comes in. We support the restoration of these vital passageways through our funding of Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) Forums. These forums bring together diverse groups of interested parties across King County to develop and implement salmon recovery plans.

WRIAs in King County

Within King County, the KCFCD plays a crucial role in supporting habitat restoration initiatives through its funding allocation for WRIAs. These areas encompass vital watersheds like Snoqualmie/Skykomish (WRIA 7), Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish (WRIA 8), Green/Duwamish and Central Puget Sound (WRIA 9), and Puyallup-White (WRIA 10). By investing in these WRIAs, the KCFCD contributes to the recovery of endangered salmon species and the restoration of watershed ecosystems.

WRIA map of King County

Purpose and Scope of KCFCD’s WRIA Funding

The Cooperative Watershed Management (CWM) Grants provided by the KCFCD are intended to recover ESA-listed salmon species and restore watershed ecosystems instrumental in implementing the priorities outlined by WRIA forums and advisory committees. These priorities include habitat restoration and protection, water quality improvements, regionally coordinated monitoring, watershed planning, stewardship, outreach, and education.

WRIA 7 Tolt San Souci Project. Credit: Mary Maier

CWM Eligibility and Selection Process

A wide range of entities, including cities, towns, special purpose districts, public schools, King County, federally recognized tribes, non-profit organizations, and federal and state agencies are eligible to apply for CWM grants. Individuals and for-profit businesses are not eligible. Activities eligible for CWM grant funding include feasibility study, project design, project construction, property acquisition, and programmatic work such as project site maintenance, monitoring, education, and planning.

The selection process involves rigorous review and ranking of proposals based on WRIA salmon conservation plan priorities and project merit. The ultimate goal is to ensure that funded projects align with scientific standards and address the most pressing needs of each watershed.

WRIA 8 Holder Creek Restoration Project (Issaquah Creek)

Authority and Program Oversight

The expenditure of KCFCD funds for CWM grants is authorized through resolutions and interlocal agreements, ensuring transparency and accountability in the allocation process. Oversight is provided by the Water and Land Resources Division of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, which administers the grants in collaboration with the Flood Control District.

WRIA 9 Live staking willow stakes along the Green River by kayak

2024 CMW Award Amounts

The KCFCD Board of Supervisors enacted the CWM grant program in 2018 after a similar grant program was canceled by the King Conservation District. In 2020, the CWM grants were doubled by the KCFCD Board and incremental increases have continued in the years since that funding jump. For 2024, over $11 million was approved by the KCFCD Board in support of the CWM grant program.

WRIA 10 Greenwater 2022 Award log placement reach River Mile 3.8 to 4.8

The $11 million for 2024 is divided among the four WRIAs as follows:

  • The Snoqualmie Watershed Forum (WRIA 7) is allocated over $2.2 million;
  • WRIA 8 Salmon Recovery Council and WRIA 9 Watershed Ecosystem Forum will each receive approximately $4.2 million; and
  • WRIA 10 Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) is approved for over $575,000.

Additional CWM grant funds may become available to each WRIA as older grants close out and unused funds are rolled forward. The CWM dollar amounts allocated to each WRIA by the KCFCD typically makes up a majority of each WRIA’s annual funding package.

The 2024 CWM grant application processes for all four WRIAs has already closed. WRIAs 7, 8, and 10 are still reviewing applications and WRIA 9 approved its 2024 funding package, including the CWM grants, at its May 9th meeting.

Celebrating World Fish Migration Day and Salmon Habitat Restoration

As we approach World Fish Migration Day on May 25, 2024, it’s imperative to recognize the interconnectedness of rivers, fish, and communities. Through our support for WRIA priorities, the King County Flood Control District plays a pivotal role in safeguarding aquatic habitats and preserving the rich biodiversity of our region. By continuing to invest in habitat restoration and watershed management, we can ensure the long-term health and resilience of our rivers for generations to come.