The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board announced the award of $1,187,275 in grants to Yakima Basin organizations to continue the work of bringing salmon back from the brink of extinction.

The local grant review process is coordinated by the Yakima Basin Fish and Wildlife Recovery Board (YBFWRB), which serves as the lead entity for the Yakima Basin. Lead entities are community-based salmon recovery organizations working across the state of Washington to protect and restore species listed as threatened or endangered through the Endangered Species Act. Each of the 25 lead entities across the state operates slightly differently but they all utilize committees made up of local technical experts to evaluate the scientific efficacy habitat projects and local leaders who evaluate socio-economic factors. “For 20 years, the SRFB program has funded locally developed salmon recovery projects in the Yakima Basin. We’re proud to bring together local citizen and technical experts to review and rank projects for the RCO to fund; it ensures the money goes to projects that are biologically significant and locally supported,” said Alex Conley, YBFWRB Executive Director. In the Yakima Basin our committees are made up of representatives of local, state, and federal technical agencies and representatives from Kittitas, Yakima, and Benton counties and the Yakama Nation. Focusing on the recovery of Mid-Columbia Steelhead and Bull Trout, these committees utilize recovery and action plans developed with local, state, federal, and tribal partners that act as an essential road map towards recovery of these species. “These committees are crucial to evaluating grant proposals because these projects happen where people work, live, and play. The key to successful, long-term salmon recovery strategies lies in crafting solutions that work for both fish and local people. This process brings the community to the planning table and gives weight to both our concerns and our praise for potential projects” said Rachel Little, Benton County Citizen Committee representative.

“About 150 miles long, from the snow reservoir peaks high in the Cascades to the Yakima River’s confluence with the Columbia, our basin is as complex as it is beautiful” noted Adam J. Fyall, the YBFWRB Chair representing Benton County, adding, “Its variety is both interesting and in high-demand, with many interests dependent upon the resource. We’re playing a long game, an intricate and challenging puzzle made from many individual pieces. Each year, we fit more of those pieces into the overall matrix. Over time, we’re seeing the results in a healthier river; but it takes patience and enduring commitment not just over the span of years but over the span of decades.”

The Yakima Basin includes portions of Kittitas, Yakima, and a portion of Benton counties. This year the over $1 million is divided into $632,311 for four projects in Kittitas County, $249,000 for one project in Yakima County and $305,964 for one project in Benton County. The six projects awarded funding through the 2020 grant round address issues in all parts of the Yakima Basin, ranging from small planting and maintenance projects that will protect previous investments, to an irrigation infrastructure project that will help reduce a major source of fish mortality at one of the basin’s largest irrigation diversions.