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Watershed Incentives

Watersheds provide useful geographic units for resource management aimed at protecting the health of aquatic ecosystems and the health and economic vitality of human communities within these landscapes. Watershed efforts are well underway around the state. With urbanization and heavy resource use has come an overall decline in watershed function due to the loss of ecological processes. 

Concern for sustainable watershed health has led to the establishment of watershed-based planning committees or councils composed of government entities and a broad cross-section of the community.

The watershed lead's, lead entity's, or council’s role is similar across watersheds. Whether defined by one title or another, these groups are taking responsibility for one or more of a number of watershed protection and recovery tasks.

Watershed-focused programs and organizations range from local grassroots groups, to regional nonprofits, to federal and state agencies. They may provide grants, technical assistance, or other services. Examples are:

Chehalis River Council

The Chehalis River Council is a local non-profit citizen group dedicated to the conservation and restoration of natural resources in the Chehalis River Basin. They support activities that implement existing watershed management plans, ranging from education to technical assistance and financial help. 

Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups (RFEGs)

Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups are another example of non-profit organizations working to protect and restore fish runs in watersheds around the state. They work to recover salmon in their own communities. The 14 RFEGs create partnerships with local, state, and federal agencies; Native American tribes; local businesses; community members; and landowners. RFEGs help with restoration, education and monitoring projects. more>

Salmon Nation 

Salmon Nation is an example of a regional, non-profit support organization working on watershed protection and restoration efforts. It has established itself as an information center to provide technical support and to encourage the formation of local watershed groups dedicated to recovering salmon. They maintain a comprehensive list of watershed groups in Washington and a salmon information database.  

Salmon Recovery Funding Board

The Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) administers state and federal funds for salmon recovery efforts. The Board provides funds in the form of competitive grants for habitat protection and restoration projects and related programs and activities that contribute to salmon habitat recovery.

Grant funding may be used for protection (i.e., acquisition of property or conservation easements), restoration (in-stream passage, in-stream diversions, plantings, dike removal, road abandonment, slope stabilization, etc.), and enhancement of upland, riparian, estuarine, marine nearshore, and in-stream habitats.

Funds may also be used for associated activities such as assessments, studies, engineering design, and monitoring. Tribal, state, and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and private landowners are eligible for grants.

To receive funding, projects must be evaluated by a lead entity and submitted to the Board as part of the lead entity’s prioritized list of projects. A lead entity represents the community (within watersheds) on salmon recovery efforts at the local government level. Project sponsors must contact the lead entity for application procedures.

The Salmon Recovery Funding Board provided $26.6 million in its most recent funding cycle. Funding comes from state general obligation bonds and the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. 

Washington Watershed Grant Program

The Washington Watershed Grant Program, administered by the Department of Ecology, offers a coordinated structure for watershed-wide planning and project implementation. It provides grants to local governments to join together with tribes, state agencies, and community members. They form an organized planning unit for development and implementation of watershed-wide management plans focused on water supply.

Planning units are required to conduct a detailed assessment of the watershed’s current water supply and uses, and to recommend long term strategies for providing adequate water for fish and future growth. The planning units may also choose to develop strategies for improving water quality, and for protecting or restoring fish habitat. They may also recommend minimum in-stream flow standards.

Watershed planning must include an entire Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) or multiple complete WRIAs. All counties within the WRIA(s), the largest city or town within each WRIA, and the water utility obtaining the largest quantity of water within each WRIA must agree to start the watershed planning process.  

Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program

The Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program is provided by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The program assists state, local, and qualified nonprofit organizations in planning and implementing watershed projects for flood prevention, water quality improvement, agricultural water management, water-based recreation, municipal and industrial water supplies, and fish and wildlife habitat development. Technical assistance, the cost of construction for flood prevention, and cost-sharing for other purposes is available.

Local watershed teams are established to identify problems, the extent of damages, and develop an implementation plan. There are two different types of assistance: one for planning (for newly included watersheds) and the other for implementation.

Sponsors of the program must be one of the following: soil and water conservation districts; local governments; recreation and park districts; watershed, flood control, conservancy, drainage or irrigation districts; or tribes. Limited other organizations may also qualify.


Lead entity: A lead entity represents the community (within a watershed) on salmon recovery efforts at the local government level. >back  

Watershed: A watershed is a geographic area of land bounded by topographic high points in which water drains to a common destination. >back

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