Governors Report Page 4

Salmon recovery works

Nearly 20 years in, salmon recovery organizations understand what salmon need to survive: healthy habitats, ability to travel freely from home rivers to the ocean and back, and hatchery and harvest management decisions that work in harmony with habitat recovery. In three areas of the state, salmon are making real progress toward viability and below are examples of successful recovery efforts.
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Hood Canal

Summer chum populations are increasingly strong and nearing recovery goals. We believe these fish will be recovered within the next decade. Scientists are watching the chum to ensure they can withstand changes in their habitat caused by climate change.

Snake River

Fall Chinook populations in the Snake River also are showing signs of progress. They have benefitted from an all-H (habitat, hatchery, harvest, and hydropower) recovery approach. These improvements can be attributed largely to hatchery management improvements, hydropower passage improvements in the Columbia and Snake Rivers, harvest management, as well as habitat restoration work.

Middle Columbia River

The abundance and spatial distribution of middle Columbia River steelhead populations have improved significantly during the past decade. Many of the populations in the Klickitat, Rock Creek, Walla Walla, and Yakima basins are nearing recovery goals, and a population has reestablished in the White Salmon River now that Condit Dam is Steelhead have benefited greatly from habitat restoration and passage projects. We’ve made a lot of progress removing fish passage barriers, increasing in-stream flows and improving habitat conditions in all of these areas, with strong support from local communities. Unfortunately, the past 3 years have seen relatively low numbers of adult salmon returning because of poor ocean conditions. We are optimistic that the significant improvements in freshwater habitat conditions that have been achieved will allow a rapid rebound as ocean conditions recover.

Success around the state

Hood Canal Chum Nearing Recovery

Recovery organizations, Indian tribes, and local governments completed many projects to recover summer chum in this region. During many years, people came together to make and honor fishing agreements and to restore and protect priority salmon habitat so that these important fish have a chance to survive and thrive.

The number of chum has grown steadily and now passes the bottom range of the recovery goal. Progress also has been made in other measures that are used to judge whether chum are healthy enough to be considered recovered, such as whether they are biologically diverse enough to withstand a range of conditions and whether they are spread out enough geographically to withstand catastrophic events.

Caution is advised in moving toward delisting prematurely, but with the right ocean and river conditions, there is a reasonable potential for delisting of Hood Canal summer chum salmon from the protections of the Endangered Species Act within the next decade.

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Monitoring Projects Shows Restoration Can Increase Salmon Numbers

Washington has been monitoring its salmon recovery projects and the data has proven that that projects do restore habitat and as a result, the numbers of salmon increase. For example, estuary restoration projects in the South Fork Skagit River delta cumulatively restored 682 acres of tidal wetlands that nurture about 160,000 young Chinook salmon every year. In general, system-wide monitoring of Chinook salmon densities in the Skagit delta show an increase of 690 smolts per hectare in restored habitat.

Restoration efforts also increased the overall length of time juvenile Chinook spent in estuaries in the Skagit, which gave them more time to grow and resulted in greater fish survival. Similarly, in the Nisqually River estuary near Tacoma, restoration of about 900 acres resulted in fish staying in the estuary more of the time, from to 30 percent to 75 percent of the time, giving them more time to transition between saltwater and freshwater.

How is salmon recovery funding spent?

This chart shows funds distributed by the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office from 1999-2017. The total above does not include the local matching resources, which would bring the statewide total investment to more than $1.2 billion. It includes the following fund sources: State Sources: Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account, Brian Abbott Fish Barrier Removal Board, Catastrophic Flood Relief program, Coastal Restoration Initiative Grants, Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, Family Forest Fish Passage Program, Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund, Salmon Recovery Fund, Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. Federal Sources: Coded Wire Tag Program, Environmental Protection Agency, hatchery reform funds, Land and Water Conservation Fund, Marine Shoreline Protection, Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, and Puget Sound Chinook critical stock program.