The federal government is handing Oregon an unusually large annual grant for restoring waterways to help imperiled salmon and steelhead, reports Register-Guard. The cash will help offset a decline in state lottery funding for the work.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded Oregon's Watershed Enhancement Board $13.2 million from the federal agency's Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.
The state agency will dole out the money on a competitive basis to local groups that take steps to help the fish.
The upgrading work typically is done on private land and includes steps to improve fish passage, creating shade along rivers to keep water cool, and opening up waterways that have become blocked, said Tom Byler, the Oregon agency's executive director.
The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board hands out $35 million to $40 million a year, much of it from the state lottery, for work to help water-dependent species, he said.
NOAA has been awarding the board money every year since 2000, he said, with amounts varying from as low as $4 million to as high as $11 million or more, he said.
The latest award, announced last week, is $5 million more than the board received the previous year, he said.
"We're very thrilled about that," Mr Byler said. "It's a sign that this federal agency is recognizing there is a lot of good work we are doing."
The added jolt of federal money will help offset a decline in state lottery funds for river enhancement work, he said.
The watershed board was created after Oregon voters in 1998 passed a ballot measure setting aside a portion of lottery revenues for the riparian work.
Mr Byler told Register-Guard this is the first year since the board was created that lottery funding revenue has declined for the agency. Lottery revenues are on the rocks as gamblers, hit by the sour economy, cut back on entertainment.
In its award announcement last week, the federal government also allocated $26.5 million for the state of Washington for salmon habitat work.
NOAA is part of the Commerce Department, which is headed by former Washington Governor, Gary Locke.
There are 16 federally protected populations of salmon and steelhead within the two states. Many are in the Columbia River basin and are common to both states.
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