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December 2013
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CityLink Seattle

City Light Awarded Grant to Acquire Key Fish Habitat in Skagit River Watershed



Photo of fish researcher with a steelhead in the Skagit River.

Findings from this steelhead research project and other studies helped identify key habitat that Seattle City Light acquires for conservation.

Seattle City Light was awarded a $982,999 grant from the Washington Salmon Recovery Board to acquire 113 acres of high quality habitat for Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout in the Skagit River system.

“Seattle City Light is committed to active environmental stewardship of the rivers where we produce clean, renewable electricity for our customers,” General Manager and CEO Jorge Carrasco said. “This grant will help us continue our work to conserve important habitat along the Skagit River, which is the largest producer of salmon in Puget Sound.”

The land to be acquired includes floodplains of the Skagit and Sauk Rivers. All three fish species are listed as threatened with the risk of extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Seattle City Light will contribute $173,471 toward the purchase. The grant funding comes from the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund.

City Light already owns 2,700 acres of key spawning and rearing habitat for these fish. Combined with its holdings for wildlife habitat conservation, the utility now protects a total of 12,929 acres of land.

City Light’s grant was one of nine awarded to projects in the Skagit River watershed. The recovery board awarded a total of $42 million in salmon recovery grants to organizations in 30 counties.

“Salmon are an important part of both Washington’s culture and economy,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in announcing the grants. “Healthy salmon populations support thousands of jobs in fishing, hotels and restaurants, seafood processing, boat sales and repair, charter operations, environmental restoration and more. I am very pleased with the work of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and its efforts to fund projects that help our economy and assure future generations of Washingtonians can enjoy the return of wild salmon.”

The three dams in City Light’s Skagit Hydroelectric Project produce about 21 percent of the electricity used by the utility’s customers. Those dams were built above natural barriers to fish migration so they do not interfere with spawning runs. City Light also manages river flows with its dams to protect salmon and steelhead eggs and juvenile fish from too much or too little water in the river.

Photo of Gorge Dam.

Gorge Dam at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project.

The Skagit River is the only river in Washington that hosts all five species of salmon plus steelhead and bull trout. About half the wild Chinook salmon in Puget Sound come from the Skagit River.

“We recognize how important the Skagit River is to the health of our environment and our economy,” Carrasco said. “We can produce clean, affordable, renewable energy and support healthy fish populations. Our long history of doing just that is one of the reasons we are the nation’s greenest utility.”