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Kitsap's waterways competing for federal restoration funds

The Kingston Slough near Arness Park is one waterway in Kitsap County competing for federal restoration money. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
The Kingston Slough near Arness Park is one waterway in Kitsap County competing for federal restoration money.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

KITSAP COUNTY — Puget Sound habitat restoration, salmon recovery and federal stimulus dollars go hand-in-hand-in-hand.

Hopefully.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has received $170 million in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for competitive grants to be awarded to organizations across the United States.

Washington state would like to win some $101 million of NOAA's dollars to fund a total of 52 Puget Sound restoration and salmon recovery projects spanning the state.

On April 6 Gov. Christine Gregoire endorsed the 52 grant proposals which were submitted to NOAA the same day.

While a grant application and governor endorsement in no way guarantees funding, the project sponsors and organizations that worked on the proposals are highly optimistic about Washington's chances.

The Puget Sound Partnership (PSP) was charged with collecting, identifying and reviewing all the grant applications pertaining to the Puget Sound region that met NOAA's competitive guidelines.

The top three NOAA guidelines are readiness to go ("permits are in hand and ready for summer 2009 construction"), job creation/retention and ecological benefit.

"I am very hopeful (funding will be awarded) based on the quality of projects submitted to us," said Jason Mulvihill-Kuntz, PSP's Watershed/Habitat Recovery coordinator.

He said PSP staff looked at more than $150 million in projects and narrowed that down to $50 million and 20 projects.

Among the 52 endorsed projects, five approved by the PSP have work slated in Kitsap County as does one other sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources.

Most of the potential Kitsap projects are part of larger regional efforts, but two projects — Carpenter Creek Estuary restoration in Kingston and Chico Creek instream restoration in Silverdale — are solely Kitsap efforts.

The Carpenter Creek application requests approximately $2.7 million in funding to restore more than 30 acres of undeveloped habitat of the Carpenter Creek Estuary by removing an undersized, tidal-restricting culvert and replacing it with a bridge.

This project has been a priority since 2001, but was delayed because of funding and has made piecemeal progress as portions of funding became available. If NOAA funding comes through, this would allow the project to be completed in its entirety with one final effort.

Patty Charnas, Kitsap County Department of Community Development manager of the Environmental Programs Division, has been working on Carpenter Creek progress for the past few years. She is encouraged with the governor's endorsement and is hopeful funding will be awarded.

"It meant quite a bit. Not every project NOAA received has a letter signed by a standing governor," Charnas said. "We as a county have publicly committed to acting soon in hope that this is one way to get this project dislodged and moving forward."

The Chico Creek application requests $1.97 million in funding to remove fish passage barriers and restore habitat.

Charnas said Chico Creek is one of the most productive chum salmon streams in the Western Puget Sound region and a creek and watershed of great significance.

The creek is culverted three times, which impacts flow and a fish's ability to move up stream. Phase I (re-meandered a portion of the stream, placed engineered debris for habitat creation and enhanced the flood plain) of the three-phased project is already complete. Phase II and III would continue habitat enhancements and water flow for the rest of the stream and the removal of a culvert.

"In order for Phase I to continue to be successful we have to complete the rest of the stream reach," Charnas said.

Both the Kitsap specific projects are ready for work to being if funding comes through.

The regional efforts that would see work in Kitsap include; the removal of old fishing debris from the waters of the Sound, as they cause high morality rates for fish and other species, raising and planting three native shoreline species — Pinto abalone, Olympia Oysters and Bull — that have seen diminished numbers and serve as habitat and water filters for the Sound, the removal of invasive species from the Sound, and the removal of several structures that impede fish passage.

Mulvihill-Kuntz said several of the 20 projects processed by the PSP have random sources of small funding in place, but NOAA funds would allow the projects to be completed once and for all. All 20 also are ready to be tackled as soon as this summer.

"It's a great opportunity to get a significant portion of funding to move and advance the projects," he said. "This would allow folks to bite off and complete entire projects."

PSP also has a goal of restoring the Sound by 2020 and winning project funding would be a huge step toward the realization of the 2020 goal.

NOAA will begin awarding funding as early as May 1.

To learn more about PSP's efforts to recover the Sound visit the organizations Web site, www.psp.wa.gov.

PBS Frontline will air a "Poisoned Waters" special, which highlights the plight of the Puget Sound, On from 9-11 p.m. April 21 on PBS stations.

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