by Bruce Merighi


The spring is a very busy time for fly fishers like me that are concerned about preserving and resorting local andronomous fisheries. Beside wanting to get out and wet a line, teaching young men and women about the sport at the Northwest Conservation and Fly Fishing Academy. I’m also part of another team that is reviewing twenty-six grant applications that each want a piece of $2 million dollars in state funds, destined to help the fish I love. It’s called the Chelan County Citizens Advisory Committee, a part of the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board (UCSRB).

On September 1999 the UCSRB was formed to undertake a locally led, collaborative approach to recovery coordinated by the Yakima Nation, Colville Confederated Tribes and Chelan, Okanogan and Douglas County Commissions. In 2006 the first salmon restoration projects were implemented by project sponsors lead a need for a regional funding coordinating body, the UCSRB formed a non-profit corporation and hired staff. In August of 2007 the Upper Columbia Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Plan was drafted by the UCSRB and partners, and was adopted by NOAA. In 2013 we began managing the annual Salmon Recovery Funding Board grant cycle as the Lead Entity Coordinator.

The upper Columbia region is a 10,000 square mile area encompassing Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan Counties from the base of Chief Joseph Dam to the confluence of the Yakima and Columbia Rivers and we work to recover ESA-listed salmonids in four sub-basins: Entiat, Okanogan, Methow and Wenatchee.

The UCSRB is directed by a five-member board with representatives from the Yakama Nation and Colville Confederated Tribes and a County Commissioner from each of the three counties. UCSRB is one of seven regional salmon recovery organizations in the state created by the Washington Legislature and working in partnership with the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office. The role of UCSRB is to develop and coordinate implementation of the Upper Columbia Spring Chinook and Steelhead Recovery Plan; coordinate funding for recovery efforts; track and report progress to NOAA Fisheries; and coordinate with partners across the state to implement the statewide salmon strategy.

The UCSRB annually solicits and prioritizes projects and forwards a final, ranked list to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) and other funding sources. Projects run the gambit from property acquisition, habitat assessment and protection measures to levels of design and stream restoration. After a preliminary grant proposal is submitted and a field tour of the project location, the grant proposals moves to two groups of volunteers that form the Regional Technical Team (RTT) and a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).

The RTT is comprised of professionals that volunteer their time and expertise in salmon ecology, habitat restoration, evaluation and planning, fluvial geomorphology, habitat status and trend monitoring, fish ecology and population dynamics, sub basin planning and modeling and statistical analysis. Project sponsors give technical presentations and received feedback early in the process and thus have the opportunity to modify and change proposals earlier in the grant round based on technical feedback within the region. The RTT scores the proposals which are passed on to the CAC who are responsible for the final project ranking based on biological, social, economic, and community considerations.

The county CACs are chosen from county citizens from various professions and are appointed by their respective County Commissioners. They participate in field tours, multiple grant applicant presentations as well as use the RTT scoring in order to create their final scoring of the proposed grant projects. Upon delivering the final scoring by the CACs the Salmon Recovery Funding Board distributes grants funding to a variety of agencies in order to commence their projects.

In 2021 eleven local salmon recovery projects received a combined $2 million in grants from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. The money was a part of $21 million in state wide grant funding. In 2022 twenty-six grant proposals have been submitted and are currently under review by the RTT and CACs. On June 23, the Okanogan and Chelan county CACs will meet to discuss the RTT scoring and prepare to score these projects and ultimately determine which projects obtain funding. Final decisions by the CACs are due in early July and projects that are funded can start implementation as early as September of this year.

As a Chelan County Citizens Advisory Committee member of the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board, I am privileged to assist with the recovery of Salmon and Steelhead in our local waterways.