$2.7 million in grants coming to area wetlands

This old property map shows the Stanley Point peninsula, once targeted for the town of Napoleon.

WASHINGTON - The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is awarding more than $8.5 million in grants to 10 projects in Washington that protect and restore coastal wetlands, including $2.7 million for projects in Pacific and Wahkiakum counties.

The grants are part of the $19.2 million awarded to 11 states through the 2010 National Coastal Wetland Conservation Grant Program. Nationwide, the grant program will fund 25 conservation projects encompassing nearly 6,100 acres of coastal habitat. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced the grants on Dec. 28.

The $8.5 million being awarded in Washington will be used to acquire, restore or enhance coastal wetlands and associated nearshore and upland habitat. All of the 10 sites are priority conservation areas and will provide important habitat for federal and state listed species of concern.

On the Long Beach Peninsula at the Island and Loomis Lakes Conservation Area, the Washington Department of Ecology and the Columbia Land Trust will protect 125 acres of highly threatened, declining coastal wetlands using a $1 million grant. These grant funds will be added to $476,000 in non-federal cost share.

The project area contains one of the largest inter-dunal freshwater wetland complexes in North America and supports over 25 sensitive habitat communities and at-risk species. These properties will be added to the existing 890-acre Island and Loomis Lakes Conservation Area.

In Willapa Bay at Stanley Point and Chetlo Harbor, the Washington State Department of Ecology in partnership with the Cascade Land Conservancy will protect more than 700 acres of high quality wetlands, including estuarine emergent salt marsh, eelgrass meadows, mudflats, marsh shrub-scrub, forested wetlands, and nearshore habitat. The $1 million federal grant announced last week is in addition to $559,000 in non-federal funds.

This project is adjacent to the 15,000-acre Willapa Bay National Wildlife Refuge and will conserve important habitat in one of the most productive estuaries in Washington state. As part of this project five miles of estuarine shoreline in southern Willapa Bay will also be permanently protected. Approximately 172 acres will be acquired outright and 533 acres will be protected through conservation easements.

In the Lower Columbia River estuary at Grays Bay, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will acquire 287 acres of tidal emergent marsh at the mouth of Deep and Grays rivers, supporting habitat for wintering waterfowl, threatened salmon, and other fish and wildlife species. This habitat type and area are a priority for conservation and salmon recovery in the Lower Columbia River. The area will remain open for public use, including hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing.

The federal grant for the Grays Bay purchase totals $700,000 and is in addition to $320,000 in non-federal cost share.

Just to our north along the coast, another $1 million grant will be added to $1,017,000 in non-federal spending to acquire and protect 300 acres of pristine coastal wetland habitat to be added to the 5,000-acre Elk River Natural Resources Conservation Area. This conservation area contains one of the largest, most diverse, highest quality estuarine systems remaining in the Pacific Northwest.

Purchasing these properties from willing sellers will remove threats from land-use practices and will help to sustain diverse habitats and protect water quality and habitat for ESA listed North American green sturgeon, a Washington State Species of Concern, the Olympic mudminnow, and multiple coastal migratory bird species.

In the Hoquiam River, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was awarded $950,000 to help Cascade Land Conservancy, the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust and Grays Harbor Audubon Society conserve and protect 644 acres and 6 river miles of high quality coastal surge plain and adjacent spruce forest. This is the second phase of this conservation effort, and will bring 75 percent of the Hoquiam Surge Plain into conservation ownership, totaling 1,358 acres. The federal funds will augment $390,000 in non-federal cost share.

The National Coastal Wetland Conservation Grant Program awards coastal wetland conservation grants to states through a competitive process. The program is funded under provision of the 1990 Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, with money generated from excise taxes on fishing equipment and motorboat and small engine fuels. In addition to Washington, states receiving grants this year include Oregon, California, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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