Long-Sought Deal Will Protect Salmon

     TACOMA, Wash. (CN) – More than 120 acres of an important Northwest watershed for migrating salmon will be restored under a settlement between Native American tribes, government agencies and businesses.
     Around 60 parties signed on to a settlement agreement to reopen 121 acres of floodplain for salmon on the White River.
     From its source on the glaciers of Mount Rainier, the White River winds about 75 miles until it joins the Puyallup River near Tacoma. Part of the river at issue in the litigation forms the border of King (Seattle) and Pierce (Tacoma) counties.
     The settlement allows more room for flood waters and provides money for levees to protect more than 200 homes and businesses. The settling parties agreed to help fund the Countyline Levee Setback Project to resolve liability issues for release of toxic materials into waterways in Tacoma’s Commencement Bay.
     Investigations by state and federal agencies found soil and groundwater contamination around Commencement Bay and its waterways, including arsenic, lead, and PCBs.
     The Puyallup and Muckleshoot Tribes and the federal government sued nearly 60 businesses and other entities they blame for contaminating the bay area.
     The defendants settled without admitting liability, and agreed to contract with King County for the restoration project.
     They agreed to pay nearly $240,000 for project oversight and more than $830,000 in reimbursements.
     The project involves removing rock and concrete slab to allow the river to flow through its floodplain, and installing log structures to provide refuge for young salmon. Native trees will be planted along the river to provide shade, habitat and food for fish and other organisms.
     The roots of the project came in 2009 after around 100 homes and businesses in the city of Pacific were flooded. Pacific is in King and Pierce counties.
     In addition to habitat restoration, the project aims to prevent flood damage through acquiring property and removing levees, among other actions.
     It’s the 20th settlement related to Commencement Bay pollution, and should restore more than 350 acres of salmon habitat.
     Commercial development, overfishing, pollution, dams and climate changes have reduced the salmon population on both coasts. Salmon are particularly vulnerable to such changes because they are anadromous, living in the oceans but returning to fresh water to spawn.

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