State grant will help City build new setback levee

The City will use a state grant to build a new setback levee on the Green River.  - Courtesy photo
The City will use a state grant to build a new setback levee on the Green River.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The City of Auburn will use a $327,353 grant from the state of Washington to build a new setback levee on the Green River after it has removed 500 feet of berm and rock from the Fenster levee and a gravel access road alongside the river.

Auburn plans to contribute $57,768 from a local grant to the project in the 2100 block of 2nd Street Southeast in the Fenster Nature Park.

"What's exciting for us is that this grant award from the state actually completes the funding for the project," Chris Anderson, environmental protection manager for the City of Auburn, said this week.

This final stage of a project that began in 2006 builds on the success of three recent levee setback efforts in the Auburn Narrows Reach just upstream, all of which have allowed the river to form superior fish habitat and flood water storage within the reach. Those were:

• Phase 1 of the Fenster levee setback.

• The Pautzke levee setback project.

• The Auburn Narrows Floodplain habitat restoration project.

This latest project will extend superior fish habitat and flood water storage for another 500 feet downstream into Auburn and reconnect the river with a portion of its historic floodplain and important habitat.

"When the project is completed, it will be about a 2½-mile stretch of the Green River that will have been restored," Andersen said. "That makes it one of the longest continuous areas of restoration, certainly, even down in the urban stretches of the county. It's quite significant from a salmon habitat point of view. It really takes us a considerable way toward getting some of the salmon habitat restored in terms of the salmon recovery efforts under way."

Steelhead and chum, coho, and endangered Chinook salmon are among the species in the river.

The grant award is among $19.2 million the Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board announced recently to organizations throughout the state to restore and protect rivers and other waterways to bring salmon back from the brink of extinction.

"These grants are very important in Washington," said Don "Bud" Hover, chair of the state funding board. "They give local groups the money they need to fix the rivers, estuaries and bays in their communities, and they put local people to work."

All of the grant recipients will use the money to reconnect rivers and streams, remove barriers that prevent salmon from migrating, and replant riverbanks to shade and cool the water, creating places for salmon to reproduce, feed, rest and hide from predators.

Recent Oregon studies showed that every $1 million spent on watershed restoration results in 15-33 new or sustained jobs, $2.2 million to $2.5 million in total economic activity, and that 80 percent of grant money is spent in the county where the project was located.

Using the Oregon study formula, these new grants are estimated to provide more than 280 jobs during the next four years and more than $48 million in economic activity as grant recipients hire contractors, crews, and consultants to design and build projects, including field crews to restore riparian and shoreline areas.

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