Rebuilding healthy, harvestable salmon populations requires funding to address all threats to salmon. Voluntary and regulatory programs to protect existing habitat, hatchery and harvest management and reform, fish population monitoring, and predator control are all important to achieve salmon recovery goals, and they are all expensive.
A 2011 study7 pegged the statewide cost of implementing only habitat-related elements identified in regional salmon recovery plans for 2010-2019 at $4.7 billion in 2011 dollars. To date, only $1.6 billion has been invested, meaning that recovery has fallen further behind. As construction costs increase and habitat continues to be lost to development, increased investment will be needed.
Federal and state investments in salmon recovery have increased in recent years. The federal government is distributing infrastructure and climate-related funding, both of which benefit salmon recovery goals. The Washington State Legislature approved $200 million in supplemental funding in 2022 to increase the pace of investment. These infusions have been important to recovery, which will require significant ongoing funding.
The 2023-2025 Biennial Work Plan to implement the Governor’s salmon strategy update8 outlines about $830 million in specific funding needs, providing a roadmap for near-term actions that, if funded, will help achieve recovery goals statewide.
A 2011 study pegged the statewide cost of implementing only habitat-related elements identified in regional salmon recovery plans for 2010-2019 at $4.7 billion in 2011 dollars.
How is the Money Spent?
Restoration first. In all regions, the largest portion of salmon recovery funds managed by the Recreation and Conservation Office has been slated for restoration projects to repair damaged habitat, followed by projects to plan projects and those to acquire more pristine areas important for salmon.
Recovering salmon habitat requires both restoration and protection measures. Restoration helps watersheds that were damaged by past human activity, while protection measures through land-use and regulatory programs can reduce habitat loss. Unfortunately, without increased funding, restoration projects are unable to keep pace with ongoing habitat losses. In addition, land-use programs must change to better protect existing habitat to benefit from the substantial investments made through restoration.
The funding chart above shows 1999-2022 salmon recovery funds by project type, administered by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. The chart also includes $11 million in Pacific Salmon Treaty Orca Conservation funds for restoration, acquisition, and hatchery projects, which was from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2020. The Recreation and Conservation Office is a state agency that administers multiple funds and staffs multiple boards, including the Salmon Recovery Funding Board.
State Funding Sources
Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account, Chehalis Basin Strategy (through the Office of Financial Management), Washington Coastal Restoration and Resiliency Initiative, Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, Family Forest Fish Passage Program, Brian Abbott Fish Barrier Removal Board, Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration fund, Salmon Recovery Fund (state match to federal grant via the sale of state general obligation bonds), Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.
Federal Funding Sources
The Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funds the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, the Puget Sound Critical Stock Program, and the Pacific Salmon Treaty Orca Conservation funding. Funding also comes from the Department of Interior’s National Park Service via the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Marine Shoreline Protection program, and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. The Bonneville Power Administration also provides funding for salmon and steelhead recovery projects (not reported here) in the Columbia River.
Salmon Recovery Funding Board
The Salmon Recovery Funding Board awards funding to projects during public meetings and presents detailed information online to ensure the funding process is visible and accountable to the public. The board, created in the Salmon Recovery Act of 1998, sets statewide policy and distributes funding. It has invested about $1.6 billion in salmon recovery projects. Its investment in 8 regional areas and 25 lead entities engages thousands of people committed to implementing salmon recovery at the local level.