EPA awards $350k to NW Indian Fisheries Commission for habitat projects

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is providing the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission with a $350,000 Indian General Assistance Program Grant to assist western Washington tribes with habitat protection projects.

“The work of the western Washington tribes is critical to our efforts to protect vital water resources and to help clean-up Puget Sound,” said EPA Regional Administrator Chris Hladick. “The partnerships with the Commission and its member tribes are crucial to implementing our shared visions of an economically, culturally, and environmentally healthy region.”

This award continues the EPA-NWIFC partnership that began in the early 1990s that has since evolved into the current Indian General Assistance Program, which is critical to the development, organization, and implementation of the Washington Coordinated Tribal Water Quality Program. This inter-governmental strategy was designed to build tribal capacity to monitor and evaluate environmental conditions, and to advance water quality protection and clean-up objectives important to tribal resources.

Lorraine Loomis, Chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission noted that grant dollars are critical to the tribes because of their consistency and their help in leveraging state and local efforts to improve water quality for everyone. Some examples of the work NWIFC funded with the most recent grant are:

  • Support for tribal engagement in setting water quality standards in Washington;
  • Tribal participation in joint water quality monitoring and protection projects such as efforts to determine the effectiveness of nutrient management efforts in addressing ocean acidification in Puget Sound; and
  • The Suquamish Tribe’s work with Washington State University to determine effects of polluted stormwater runoff on salmon health. The tribe’s Grovers Creek Hatchery served as a key scientific facility for the study.

Previous projects included the work of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians to decrease sediment in Clarks Creek, an important salmon tributary to the Puyallup River. The tribe is leading a regional effort to clean up the creek by reducing the amount of sediment flowing into it. Too much sediment drives down salmon productivity because it impacts their ability to find clean spawning gravel. The goal of the project is to lower flows and stabilize banks, which will reduce channel erosion, cutting sediment loads by half, and nutrient and bacteria by a third.

NWIFC provides technical and policy assistance to member tribes in their roles as natural resources co-managers with the state. The commission also coordinates with its member tribal governments, and with local, state, and federal governments on activities that serve to preserve, protect, and enhance fisheries important to tribal communities throughout western Washington as well as coordinates forums for tribes to develop organized responses to shared natural resources challenges.

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