NISQUALLY – Clearly demonstrating their commitment to protect and restore the Nisqually River watershed, the Nisqually Indian Tribe and the state departments of Fish and Wildlife and Ecology today announced the award of five grants totaling more than $450,000 to projects that will improve and maintain over 60 threatened acres of the watershed.

Located in rural Thurston County, 15 miles east of Olympia, Wash., the Nisqually Tribe has lived on the Nisqually River watershed for hundreds of years. One of the Tribe’s highest priorities is to protect the watershed, and it has provided millions of dollars in grants and thousands of volunteer hours for its improvement, both for wildlife and the community.

The five grants are part of the “Williams Pipeline Mitigation Fund,” a Nisqually Tribe-administered program created to minimize the environmental harm of a new 22-mile natural gas pipeline constructed in 2006 in Pierce and Thurston counties. The construction replaced a section of pipeline that was considered unsafe.

The fund represents an innovative approach to environmental mitigation because it was created as a condition of local, state and federal environmental permits for the pipeline construction. The fund is unique because the mitigation funds can be used to support projects outside the pipeline construction zone that will provide greater overall improvements and protection for the watershed.

To screen and select projects, the Tribe worked with Fish and Wildlife, Ecology and the Army Corps of Engineers. Biologists from Pierce and Thurston County planning departments were also apprised of the projects.

“We are thrilled to support projects to improve the health of the entire watershed and protect the river for future generations of Nisqually to enjoy,” said Cynthia Iyall, chairman of the Nisqually Tribe. “The stewardship of the Nisqually River is one of our most important responsibilities, and I am proud of the commitment and passion that the Tribe has shown for the effort.”

“The total acres of habitat that will be protected or restored with these grants is more than double the area impacted by the pipeline,” Iyall noted.

Among the projects supported by the grants are the restoration of 16 acres of riverside forest by the Nisqually River Land Trust and six acres of oak and prairie habitat along Muck Creek by Fort Lewis, as well as the permanent protection of 35 acres near the Mashel River and 20 acres near Ohop Creek.

“The pipeline project impacted specific sorts of habitat, like stream-side vegetation and wetlands,” said David Troutt, natural resources director for the tribe. “This kind of mitigation allowed us to choose projects that best addressed the needs of the watershed’s ecosystem.”

“This is an example of how developers and environmental agencies are stepping back and finding ways to maximize environmental mitigation that works. A grant program like this was possible because the partnership between the Tribe, the Williams Pipeline Company, and the local, state, and federal regulatory agencies,” said Josh Baldi, Ecology’s special assistant who focuses on the Puget Sound, mitigation, monitoring, land use and salmon recovery. “With this approach, the organizations collaborated to select the projects that will provide the greatest benefit in the watershed.”

The grants will pay for:

  • Restoring six acres of oak and prairie habitat along Muck Creek by Fort Lewis;
  • Restoring 16 acres of riverside forest by the Nisqually River Land Trust;
  • Permanently protecting 35 acres near the Mashel River and 20 acres near Ohop Creek by the land trust;
  • Enhancing one acre of riverside wetland on a Nisqually River side-channel by the land trust.

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For more information, contact: David Troutt, natural resources director, Nisqually Indian Tribe, (360) 438-8687. Kim Schmanke, Department of Ecology, SW region communications manager, (360) 407-6239. Emmett O’Connell, information officer, NWIFC, (360) 528-4304, eoconnell@nwifc.org