The citizens committee charged with reviewing and prioritizing salmon recovery and habitat enhancement projects in Klickitat County for state funding had more projects than it had money for during its recently completed 2013 rankings.
The Citizens Review Committee’s consensus rankings noted that the five proposals it was asked to review and prioritize for state Salmon Recovery Funding Board grant awards were “very close” because “all [five are] technically sound projects.”
In the final issue, though, one project had to be sacrificed this funding round so four could be undertaken with full funding from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB, aka SurfBoard), which is part of the state Recreation and Conservation Office that administers the grant program.
Klickitat County’s allocation for the 2013 funding round is $667,000, which is split between two regions: the Mid-Columbia River ($532,000) and the Lower Columbia River ($135,000).
The Citizens Review Committee recommended the SRFB fund two projects in the Mid-Columbia region: Phase 5 of floodplain restoration along the middle Klickitat River ($477,000), sponsored by property owner Columbia Land Trust, and an assessment of the feasibility of establishing a conservation easement on private lands in the Rock Creek drainage ($35,000), sponsored by the East Klickitat Conservation District. A third project in the region, titled the Prioritization of Actions on the Columbia Mainstem and sponsored by the Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, received high marks but no funding in this cycle.
In the White Salmon River basin, which is part of the Lower Columbia region, the committee had only two projects to review and prioritize. A project titled Mill Creek Fish Passage Final Design ($55,000) and another called Rattlesnake Creek Large Woody Debris Project Development ($80,000) are going to the SRFB with “fund in full” recommendations. Both project are sponsored by the Underwood Conservation District. The SRFB will make its funding decisions at its quarterly meeting on Dec. 4-5. (Descriptions of each project were published in the Aug. 8 issue of The Enterprise. –Ed.)
“The committee would have funded all five projects if funding had been available,” said John Foltz, coordinator of the county’s Salmon Recovery Program, known in the vernacular as the Lead Entity.
The two projects in the White Salmon basin equalled the allocated amount for the Lower Columbia region, while the three projects in the Mid-Columbia exceeded the region’s allocation by about $107,000.
“My understanding for committee members’ prioritization of Mid-Columbia projects is that the Klickitat Floodplain Restoration Project has been well-received and supported in the past, given the project addresses limiting habitat factors in a high-priority reach of the Klickitat River,” Foltz said, “and that the project sponsors have a good track record of successful implementation; this particular project has a lot of momentum locally and statewide.”
Foltz said the committee also supported the Rock Creek Conservation Easement Assessment to take advantage of a currently available “window of opportunity” for the East Klickitat Conservation District to negotiate an agreement with a still-interested landowner. This project had the backing of the county’s Technical Committee -- which provides advice to the Citizens Review Committee -- because of its timing and the currently high level of interest in seeing something done.
As for the Prioritization of Actions on the Columbia Mainstem, with its proposed budget of $126,680 budget, Foltz said the Lead Entity is working with project sponsors “to find alternative funding sources to try and move this project forward as well.” One option cited by the committee was to identify the project as “the first alternate for funding if additional funding becomes available” via unused funds returned to the state by other Lead Entities across the state.
During its final review on Aug. 1, committee members asked all project sponsors about the possibility of scaling their projects down, and all said that was not an option.
Once the SRFB makes its funding decisions, grant managers in the state Recreation and Conservation Office will administer the awards and contracts, in consultation with local Lead Entities. Foltz said project contracts will be drafted and ready for signature after the December SRFB meeting, “likely before the end of the year.”
Moreover, “project sponsors can likely begin spending grant money on projects as soon as the SRFB makes funding decisions,” Foltz said. “However, there is likely a window of time here where the legal and contract business will have to be figured out.” As a result, he added, project start dates could vary.