Although sometimes overlooked, the Riparian Protection category of WWRP is vitally important for Washington’s wellbeing. Conserving land along our waterways protects important habitat and helps keep our rivers healthy, clean, and more resilient to drought. Riparian Protection projects conserve and restore fresh and saltwater habitat while protecting fish habitat. In doing so, the grants help provide our families, farms, and fisheries with clean water across the state.
This month’s highlighted project is the Merrill Lake Riparian Protection 2016, which is slated to complete in 2021. In the last grant round, the project received $1,400,000 in grant funds from WWRP. With this grant funding, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will acquire approximately 146 acres of riparian habitat along the Kalama River and the Merrill Lake Shoreline. This acquisition is the latest of a multi-phase acquisition effort to acquire 1,431 acres in the Merrill Lake area. One of the primary objectives of this project is the long-term protection of this unique habitat for wildlife, including steelhead, Coho and Chinook salmon, and many important native plant communities.
Another is providing secure public access to the area for anglers and other recreators, particularly along the shorelines of the lake and river. This area is a popular fly-fishing destination in Cowlitz County, and demand for public access will likely grow as Washington’s population continues to surge.