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Grants will help remove one dam while creating several logjams to aid salmon

Removing the Middle Fork Nooksack River dam

Washington state has provided $10.5-million to remove a small city of Bellingham dam that channels Middle Fork Nooksack River water into Lake Whatcom. The dam is blocking access to spawning and rearing grounds for endangered salmon.
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Washington state has provided $10.5-million to remove a small city of Bellingham dam that channels Middle Fork Nooksack River water into Lake Whatcom. The dam is blocking access to spawning and rearing grounds for endangered salmon.

Whatcom County will receive almost $13 million to grow Puget Sound salmon populations, part of a $45 million investment from the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Puget Sound Partnership.

Sixty-one other grants will be awarded to counties around the Puget Sound.

The Whatcom County grants will go toward three projects, according to a Monday, July 8, press release from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office and the Puget Sound Partnership.

The most costly of the three projects, which the state has allocated just over $10 million towards, will be the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack diversion dam. The removal of this diversion dam will restore 16 miles of endangered salmon and trout habitat without affecting the city’s supplemental water supply, according to the release.

According to an earlier story by The Bellingham Herald, the dam has been diverting water since 1962 to supplement Bellingham’s main source of water — Lake Whatcom.

Removal of the dam should also improve recreational enjoyment for whitewater kayakers using the Nooksack, according to the release.

The Nooksack Indian Tribe grant, totaling slightly over $2 million, will be used to place 50 logjams in a 1-mile stretch of the North Fork of the Nooksack River near Kendall.

Placing logjams in the river creates pools in the water that allow salmon to rest, feed and hide, according to the release. Logjams also reduce erosion and provide a place for the salmon to spawn, all of which are vital factors contributing to a thriving salmon population.

The third grant gives $141,067 to Lummi Nation to restore the Middle Fork’s Porter Creek. The tribe will plant trees and bushes along the shoreline as well as placing logjams — both of which should positively impact salmon and other fish’s habitat.

According to Laura Blackmore, Puget Sound Partnership’s executive director, the investment is part of an effort to improve the overall health of the Puget Sound ecosystem, the state’s largest estuary, according to the release. Salmon and trout are important members of the Puget Sound food web and improving the salmon population mean improving the populations of other animals like the southern resident orcas.

Warren Sterling in a graduate of Reed College of Media at West Virginia University. He interned at Politifact.com before joining The Bellingham Herald as a summer 2019 intern.
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