Skagit Watershed Council to remain 'lead entity' in acquiring funds for land purchases, other projects

Line in proposed proposed bill will be revised in their favor

Skagit Valley Herald


Skagit Valley, WA - Shirley Solomon had reason to be worried.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, a Democrat from Camano Island, is sponsoring a bill that would create a new committee aimed at salmon projects on public lands. It seemed innocuous to most people -- maybe another layer of bureaucracy, but nothing to be worried about.

Except for one line, which would grant the new group the designation of "lead entity" for the Skagit River basin.

Solomon is chair of the Skagit Watershed Council, which has been lead entity for several years.

The lead entity in watershed protection functions as an umbrella group for salmon restoration efforts in the river basin. Other organizations, ranging from private groups such as the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group to Skagit County government, make proposals to the council for projects. The council examines and ranks the projects, then proposes them to the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board, which hands out money for projects deemed worthy.

Solomon has been proud of the success of the council. It typically receives two to three times as much money as the average lead entity, she said. Solomon said that's because the council gives each project an intense technical review before it passes it on to the state.

"This is a local agency bringing home the bacon," she said. So far, it has won $8.3 million from the state for projects ranging from replacing culverts to purchasing land.

The council also acts as a neutral forum for people discussing watershed issues, she said. It claims members that include Puget Sound Energy, the Western Washington Agricultural Association, Crown Pacific and three American Indian tribes.

So Solomon said she was mystified about why Haugen wanted the council stripped of its role as lead entity.

It turns out, Haugen didn't want that at all.

"That was unintended," Haugen said Thursday. "The Watershed Council has done a superb job."

The bill will be revised and the language about lead entities will be removed, Haugen said.

Solomon said she was relieved to hear that, although she's still not sure why a new board is needed to focus on public lands.

James Geluso can be reached at 360-416-2146 or by e-


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