Grant will boost Nisqually Tribe and partners’ environmental planning

When the I-5 stretch that spans the Nisqually River delta gets a much-needed replacement, the health of the ecosystem around it will be among the considerations, thanks to the Nisqually Indian Tribe, Long Live the Kings (LLTK) and other partners.

LLTK received a $959,000 grant to continue work with the tribe to develop and integrate plans for habitat restoration that will go hand-in-hand with the expected I-5 project. The grant comes from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s National Coastal Resilience Fund and follows an earlier grant from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

The work will examine how the risks of sea level rise and other impacts of climate change relate to the need to replace the two I-5 bridges over the Nisqually River. The work is expected to protect the Nisqually River delta and lower Nisqually valley from flooding and sea level rise.

 “This project hopes to change the failed history of mitigation as an afterthought by including these ecosystem restoration and resilience building efforts as a primary element of publicly funded capital projects,” said David Troutt, natural resources director for the Nisqually Tribe. “This approach is just as important as the intended improvements to our human-built infrastructure.”

The restoration projects—ready to implement when the I-5 work begins—could include the installation of wood to slow river flow, the restoration of native plants, and reconnection of historic channels to the delta.

“We want this to be the new way of doing things,” Troutt said. “By doing it this way, the investment has the potential to reduce the community risks from severe flooding and improve habitat for birds, wildlife and salmon that are essential to the treaty rights, culture, and economic health of the Nisqually Indian Tribe.”

“We are grateful to be able to support this crucial project, and for the resources this federal funding allows so the tribe can realize their goals in the restoration of the Nisqually River delta,” said LLTK project manager Keith Estes.

Danny McGee fishes for chinook in the shadow of the I-5 bridge where planning for a new crossing for the bridges will include the restoration to go with it, thanks to the Nisqually Tribe and partners like Long Live the Kings. Story: Trevor Pyle. Photo: Debbie Preston.