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Skagit Delta Project ReceivesTargeted Watershed Grant

Release Date: 11/10/2005
Contact Information: Bevin Reid
(206) 553-1566

November 10, 2005

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that The Skagit Delta Project in Washington is one of 12 projects nationwide to receive funding under the agency's Targeted Watershed Grants program. Under this highly competitive program, the Skagit project will receive $774,000 to help preserve farmland and aid in wild salmon recovery in the Skagit River basin.

“With this grant, we are recognizing the importance of the Skagit River to the environmental and economic health of this region," said Michael Bogert, EPA's Regional Administrator in Seattle. "Through the collaborative efforts of the Nature Conservancy, the Tribes, farmers and other local organizations, this project will both preserve farmland and improve fish and wildlife habitat in a critically important ecosystem. This is truly a model of what can be accomplished when people work together around common goals."

photo of farmland The Skagit Delta Project builds on two groundbreaking agreements between the Skagit-area Indian Tribes and farmers that will prevent development of dwindling farmlands and increase access to farmlands for fish and waterfowl habitat restoration projects. Under the project, The Nature Conservancy will also compensate farmers who grow waterfowl friendly crops during fallow seasons. The Nature Conservancy and the tribes will also work with local diking districts to modify field drainage practices to improve fish habitat and drainage efficiency.

This unique project involves tribes, farmers, agricultural organizations, researchers, conservation groups, and local civic leaders all working together to protect and restore both agricultural lands and aquatic habitats. The Swinomish Tribe nominated the project with Washington Governor Christine Gregoire. Major components of the project will be led by the Conservancy, the Skagit River Cooperative System and the Western Washington Agricultural Association. Other primary partners include Washington State University and Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland.

“This is an opportunity for all of us who care about the Skagit to pull together and explore innovative approaches to long-term challenges on behalf of a place of ecological and agricultural significance,” said David Weekes, the Conservancy’s Washington state director. “It is our hope that the tools and approaches developed as a result of this grant benefit rural communities around the country, so that they, too, can find ways to safeguard both their natural and agricultural heritage.”

The Skagit Delta Project

The Skagit project will result in improved water quality, support for farmland preservation, the maintenance of agricultural drainage systems and the restoration of estuarine habitats vital to numerous species of fish and wildlife. Specifically, the project will:

Develop an incentives-based program for working farms that improves water quality and enhances wildlife habitat;
Implement drainage management practices that will protect and restore fish populations while improving farmland drainage;
Restore habitat and protect farmland at and around Fisher Slough and the Carpenter Creek watershed
Monitor water quality on farmland to test the results of these efforts.

“This grant will help us to hone our new working relationships; it brings meaning to the agreements of the past year; and it underscores our need to take seriously the hard work that’s before us,” said Steve Hinton, program director of the Skagit River System Cooperative, a natural resource management agency working on behalf of the Sauk-Suiattle and Swinomish Indian Tribes. “It won’t be easy. But while there will be bumps along the way, this is an important step forward and a milestone in building trust and collaboration.”

The local agricultural community was similarly enthusiastic:

“We look forward to being an active participant in this Skagit Delta Project,” said Mike Shelby, executive director of the Western Washington Agricultural Association. “We all want to protect and restore salmon populations in the Puget Sound, but we must succeed while protecting the last great agricultural delta in Western Washington. This gives us an opportunity to prove that it’s possible.”

The Targeted Watershed Grant Program was initiated in 2002 to protect America's waterways by putting capacity behind some of the best ideas in watershed protection in the country. In its first two years, EPA awarded nearly $30 million in grants to 34 watershed organizations across the country. For fiscal year 2005, Congress has approved $10 million for grants to support community-based approaches and activities to help local water resources.

The Targeted Watersheds Grant Program is designed to encourage successful community-based approaches and management techniques to protect and restore the nation's waters. For more about EPA’s Targeted Watershed Grants, go to:

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