Projects on the newly released PSAR ranked list will help people, salmon, and the economy
By Carrie Byron, PSAR program manager
We’re pleased to announce the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration (PSAR) program’s large capital ranked project list for 2021–23. This list includes eight large, regionally significant projects from around Puget Sound that will contribute to salmon recovery. You can view the full list in detail here. This list contains nearly $40M in key habitat projects. All of these projects deserve full funding in the capital budget, which the Washington State Legislature will decide on in the next session.
PSAR projects benefit people, salmon, and the economy
PSAR projects not only help with salmon recovery in the region, but they also build up our region’s ability to deal with climate change, offer relief from flooding, and create jobs and recreational benefits. Studies estimate that every $1 million dollars spent on restoration in Puget Sound contributes an average of 16.7 jobs to the local economy (Nielsen-Pincus and Moseley 2010). PSAR projects have created more than 3,400 jobs in the last 13 years. 80 percent of the funds invested in restoration projects stay in the county where the projects are located (Seattle Times 2017), which helps rural and distressed counties. Restoring healthy salmon runs is also key for recovering endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, who rely on healthy salmon as prey.
The program has used $157 million in federal and other matching funds to produce almost $560 million in economic activity. PSAR projects have helped our partners restore and protect more than 3,200 acres of estuary habitat, 140 river miles for fish passage, and 12,000 acres of watershed habitat. Many projects support multiple benefits.
The top three projects from the PSAR ranked list
The #1 project on the ranked list is the “Fall City Floodplain Restoration Project,” sponsored by King County. This effort will construct two floodplain reconnection projects on both sides of the Snoqualmie River. This project will remove 2,600 feet of levee, restore 145 acres of floodplain, and reconnect almost a mile of side channel. This restoration will improve salmonid habitat for all life-stages. It will help the recovery of ESA-listed Chinook salmon and steelhead trout and help coho, chum, and pink salmon and cutthroat trout.
The #2 ranked project on the list is the Stillaguamish Tribe’s “Florence Island Tidal Wetland Acquisition Project.” This project will acquire and protect roughly 537 acres of former tidal wetlands between Hatt Slough and the Old Stillaguamish Mainstem, which will later be restored. Historically this land was a complex mix of wetlands which helped support the fish and wildlife upon which local Tribes depended. Acquiring the land is the first step in returning the land to the influence of the tide and river. The Florence Island site could bring the restored area of the Stillaguamish delta to over 1,200 acres, almost double the tidal wetland area that existed in 2011. Large-scale project opportunities like this are rare in Puget Sound estuaries.
The #3 ranked project on the list is the City of Sumner’s “Sumner White River Restoration Project.” This project will restore 169 acres of floodplain, river bank, and wetland habitat in the Lower White River, including 3.5 miles of in-stream habitat. This project creates important flood protection for the City of Sumner and major businesses, as well as restoration of habitat for White River Spring Chinook, a key food source for endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.
These three projects are a sample of the exciting projects that are on the full ranked list. The projects selected for the list will all add to the health of the Puget Sound ecosystem. And many of the projects have multiple benefits: they will restore thriving salmon runs, create jobs, protect homes and businesses, and increase our region’s ability to adapt to climate change.
During the proposal review, which began in March 2020, 22 different experts evaluated the PSAR projects for this funding round. The ranked list was developed by judging each project against criteria that included benefit to salmon, connection to the Puget Sound Action Agenda, climate change, and other key factors for project success. The technical review team recommended the ranked list, which was then reviewed and approved by the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council and the Leadership Council.
Next steps for the PSAR ranked list
We submitted the PSAR ranked list to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, who approved it at their meeting in September. Next, the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) will submit the PSAR budget request, including the ranked list, to the Office of Financial Management (OFM), which will make a recommendation to Governor Inslee as to what should be included in his capital budget request. We believe each project on this list represents a significant opportunity to recover salmon in our region, and we will strive to secure funding for all of these projects both from the legislature’s 2021–23 capital budget and other public and private funding sources.