Tulalip Tribes Restoration Ecologist Brett Shattuck, in red vest, takes a tour up the steps of the Pilchuck Dam along the Pilchuck River on Oct. 16 in Granite Falls. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Tulalip Tribes Restoration Ecologist Brett Shattuck, in red vest, takes a tour up the steps of the Pilchuck Dam along the Pilchuck River on Oct. 16 in Granite Falls. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Granite Falls, Meadowdale seeing money flow for salmon work

Projects on the Pilchuck River and at Meadowdale Beach are among nearly $18 million awarded statewide

A dam near Granite Falls and a tiny railroad culvert along Puget Sound have made life difficult for salmon for at least a century, but those obstacles could be closer to disappearing.

The state Salmon Recovery Funding Board has awarded money toward removing the Pilchuck River Dam and elevating a stretch of railroad tracks at Meadowdale Beach Park. The projects are among 95 receiving grant money throughout the state.

More than $1 million is headed toward seven projects in Snohomish County. Of that, $200,000 would help the Tulalip Tribes’ plan to dismantle the dam. The structure formerly helped divert drinking water to the city of Snohomish, a partner on the project, but now serves no practical purpose. Taking it out could give fish easier passage to 14 miles of the upper Pilchuck.

“We’re really excited to have that come in,” said Brett Shattuck, a restoration ecologist with the tribes. “We’re really happy to see the project being highlighted as one of the major projects statewide.”

Shattuck hopes to kick off a series of outreach meetings about the work early next year. Demolition could start in 2020, or possibly earlier. The project is expected to cost at least $1.8 million.

Another chunk of salmon-recovery funding is going to Snohomish County’s proposal to revive an estuary at Meadowdale Beach Park, where Lund’s Gulch Creek meets Puget Sound. At $191,711, it’s a small piece of a project estimated to cost $16 million.

The county has spent $2 million so far, has about $500,000 set aside in next year’s budget and is waiting to hear back on several million dollars from various grant programs, said Shannon Hays, a parks department spokeswoman.

The project would remove 128 feet of railroad embankment that mostly blocks the beach from the park. The creek, along with fish and people, have to go through a 6-foot-wide culvert that’s low enough to force some people to stoop. BNSF Railway supports the project.

Designs call for a new five-span railroad bridge with a 100-foot opening to help fish passage and pedestrian access to the beach, while discouraging people from scrambling over the tracks above.

The Salmon Recovery Funding Board was formed in 1999 in response to Endangered Species Act listings of salmon.

Statewide, most projects in line for salmon recovery grants aim to benefit Chinook and steelhead, both listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act. Chinook salmon make up much of the diet for endangered southern resident orcas.

Some efforts could aid coho, a federal species of concern, or other salmonid species.

Other local projects include:

• $332,558 to the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians to buy 105 acres in the floodplain along the North Fork Stillaguamish River, conserving about 0.8 miles of shoreline. The tribe intends to place logjams in the river to give fish places to rest and hide from predators.

• $101,397 to assist the Tulalip Tribes with buying 23 acres of shoreline and floodplain along the Skykomish River near Monroe.

• $123,000 for the Snohomish Conservation District to restore about 15 acres of shoreline on the North Fork Stillaguamish River.

• $60,000 to Snohomish County to design salmon habitat improvements in Thomas’ Eddy within the Bob Heirman Wildlife Preserve. This is part of a larger effort to recreate habitat along the Snohomish River.

• $43,000 to the Stillaguamish Tribe to improve a fish-monitoring structure.

The Salmon Recovery Funding Board awarded nearly $18 million statewide. The governments receiving the money need to put up matching funds. In many cases, the grant only pays for a small portion of the total project.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@herald net.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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