Council discusses at September 10 meeting
It's a $10,000 question. Should the San Juan County Conservation District or the County Council be the fiscal agent for the salmon recovery program?
According to experts, the location of the San Juan Islands makes them a way-station for all 22 migrating populations of Puget Sound Chinook salmon as both juveniles and adults...Outmigrating juvenile salmon include: Chinook, Sockeye, Pink Chum and Coho salmon and stocks from the Frasier River, Puget Sound, the east and west coast of Vancouver Island and the Strait of Georgia.
The $10,000 savings from moving the fiscal agent role from the County to the Conservation District would mean more funds spent on recovery and less on overhead. The county charges $17,000 for overhead vs $7,000 at the conservation district.
The fiscal agent has no decision-making power over which projects are proposed, approved and funded. In several of the watershed areas the lead entity is the local conservation district.
Barbara Rosenkotter, the lead entity coordinator for the program for WRIA2 (Water Resource Inventory Area) which covers San Juan County, is currently a county employee.
All of the costs related to her employment are paid by a grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office. This includes her benefits and wages; the office space, computers, IT costs, etc.
Funds for the implementation of the salmon recovery program come through the Department of Ecology. Projects are generated locally, then reviewed by local, regional and state agencies.
Projects can be proposed by government agencies, non-government agencies, non-profits and individuals. When the request for proposals is issued in the spring sponsoring agents for different projects submit their proposals. All of the projects are voluntary. Landowners cannot be coerced into participating.
The proposals are reviewed by the local technical advisory committee. The county chose the Marine Resources Committee as the citizen group to review and score the proposed projects. The list of current projects can be viewed here.
The projects must relate to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) regional recovery program for chinook. The Puget Sound Action Committee makes sure the list is consistent with the recovery plan.
The state reviews the project list. Sometimes the state requests more information or sends the project back for re-evaluation.
From 2001-2013, $8,079,244 in grants were received for Salmon Recovery projects in San Juan County. $3,705,524 in matching funds (some of which were in-kind) was provided for a total of $11,784,768.
Some of the projects and sponsoring groups:
Thatcher Bay nearshore restoration and Assessment design - Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group
Shoal Bay Tide Gate Removal - Friends of the San Juans
Salmon habitat preservation at Watmough Bay - San Juan County Land Bank
Deer Harbor Estuary Restoration - People for Puget Sound
Derelict Fishing Net Removal - NW Straits Marine Conservation Foundation
WRIQ2 Habit Based Assessement of Juvenile Salmon - Skagit Reiver System Cooperative
Juvenile Salmon Prey Base Protection - KWIAHT
Expansion of WRIA2 Watershed inventory - Wild Fish Conservancy
False Bay Watershed Flow & Habitat Assessment - Washington Water Trust
Point Lawrence Road/Cascade Creek Culvert replacement - San Juan County Public Works
WRIA2 Assessment of Resident and Migratory Salmon - University of Washington
Juvenile Salmon Nearshore Utilization - Samish Nation
Reid Harbor Conservation Acquisition - San Juan Preservation Trust
Juvenile Chinook - Spatial and temporal occupation of small embayments - Northwest Marine Technology
The decision of which entity is the fiscal agent must be jointly designated by county, city and tribal governments. Rosenkotter has contacted the eight tribes involved. If she obtains agreement from them she will present the request to the County Council and the Town Council. If both councils approve the Conservation District will become the fiscal agent.
Nothing in the program will change except for the location of Rosenkotter's office.
San Juan County Councilmember Rich Hughes has suggested instead of approving the move, the county could spend $10,000 in general funds to offset the higher cost. The county council is set to discuss this issue in September.