A Great Blue Heron takes off from the Cowlitz River on the morning of Monday, June 15, 2015, near the Barrier Dam in Salkum.

The Cowlitz Indian Tribe is seeking funding from the state Department of Ecology to fund a water quality monitoring program for the Cowlitz River. 

While the department did not recommend funding the project in its draft funding list released Jan. 15, the list is open for a public comment period through Feb. 15, after which it will go through the state Legislature before a final funding list is issued July 1. 

The goal of the Cowlitz water monitoring program would be to identify nonpoint water quality issues and provide data to the Cowlitz Tribe and to local, state and federal agencies to identify and address climate change effects or allow adaptation or promote climate resiliency. 

The Cowlitz River is included on the state’s list of impaired and threatened waters due to water temperature and multiple biological toxins, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the EPA, the most recent water quality assessment report for sections of the Cowlitz River was completed in 2008. 

The project proposal was among 127 clearwater projects submitted to the Department of Ecology as part of its Water Quality Combined Funding Program. The department recently announced that it is proposing to fund 108 of those projects with a total of $282 million in grants and loans in the 2022 fiscal year. 

The funding program is intended to support local communities by helping them complete projects such as upgrading wastewater treatment and sewer systems, managing polluted stormwater and a variety of other projects that focus on preventing and cleaning up nonpoint source pollution — or pollutants released in a wide area. 

While the Department of Ecology found the Cowlitz water monitoring project eligible for $284,549 in funding through its Centennial Clean Water Program grant, it did not recommend funding the project due to a funding shortfall for that particular grant. 

“Each year, through the project prioritization and funding distribution process, Ecology tries to support as many priority projects as possible with the resources available,” reads a statement in the Department of Ecology’s draft 2022 funding offer list. “Unfortunately, due to insufficient Centennial grant, Ecology did not propose funding to several projects that were eligible for funding and attained scores high enough to receive funding.”

The Centennial state funding program, created by the state Legislature in 1986, is funded by state sources and is available to local governments to cover costs for wastewater facility preconstruction, construction in qualified hardship communities and for nonpoint source pollution control activity projects.

The Department of Ecology is proposing to award a total of $21,021,095, spread across 30 projects statewide, in Centennial grant funds in the upcoming funding cycle. 

The Cowlitz project is among 13 total projects statewide found eligible for a Centennial grant but denied funding due to insufficient funds. 

“Centennial is often the only source of funding available to help communities address nonpoint source pollution, riparian restoration, and onsite sewage (OSS) repair and replacement projects,” reads a statement in the Department of Ecology’s 2022 funding offer list. 

Visit https://ecology.wa.gov for more information.