The Tulalip Tribes have created an online mapping tool to prioritize salmon habitat conservation and restoration projects.

One of the hurdles habitat managers face is a limited time frame to use grant funding. Projects can be held up during the time it takes to acquire property. The Snohomish Floodplain Acquisition Strategy tool is a story map meant to facilitate that process, while protecting the floodplain from development and preserving treaty resources.

“The tool is a great resource to help point us in the direction to use acquisition funding most efficiently and effectively, and so that conservation and restoration partners throughout the Snohomish basin can work collaboratively to make the greatest impact with the least cost,” said Tulalip restoration ecologist Brett Shattuck.

The online geographic information system (GIS) tool ranks floodplain units based on importance, acquisition feasibility and amount of degradation. It also determines whether a site is a better candidate for restoration or conservation.

“All of the floodplain units in the analysis are considered high priority areas for acquisition, and the GIS tool merely differentiates among this overall high priority area,” Shattuck said.

So far, the tool includes the Skykomish River basin, the Pilchuck River and the mainstem Snohomish River upstream of the Pilchuck River. Eventually, it will be expanded to include the Snoqualmie basin, and the Snohomish mainstem and estuary downstream of the Pilchuck River.

“The long-term goal is a corridor of protected lands along the Snohomish and its major tributaries where floodplain and riverine processes are allowed to function naturally,” Shattuck said. “The corridor will also provide increased flood storage and conveyance, reduce infrastructure in the floodplain, increase human safety, and decrease flood damage claims along the Snohomish.”

Already the tool has helped obtain around $600,000 in grants for acquisition projects for floodplain natural process function and salmon habitat enhancement, as well as a Salmon Recovery Funding Board grant to extend the tool to the Snoqualmie watershed.

“We are already working with Snohomish County who plans to adapt the strategy for specific acquisition areas in the Skykomish with multiple benefits,” Shattuck said.

The Tulalip Tribes’ Snohomish Floodplain Acquisition Strategy ranks habitat projects based on importance, acquisition feasibility and amount of degradation, as well as whether a site is better suited for restoration, as seen above, or conservation.