Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program (ESRP) Grants - Learning Program Projects

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW)

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Grant amount: Unspecified amount

Next anticipated deadline: Apr 12, 2020 11:59pm PDT (Pre proposal)

Later anticipated deadlines: Jul 18, 2020 11:59pm PDT (Full proposal)

Applicant type: College / University Indigenous Group Government Entity Nonprofit

Funding uses: Research, Applied Project / Program

Location of project: Counties in Washington: Clallam County, Island County, Jefferson County, King County, Kitsap County Expand all

Location of residency: Washington

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ESRP Nearshore Program Objectives

The Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program (ESRP) is housed within the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and is jointly administered by the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) which functions as ESRP’s fiscal agent. The mission of the ESRP is to restore the natural processes that create and sustain the Puget Sound nearshore ecosystem. We seek exemplary projects of regional importance that advance learning about cutting-edge ecosystem restoration tactics and strategies for the purpose of increasing efficiency and effectiveness of future restoration. Our work is centered on the scientific principles and ecosystem restoration strategies developed by the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project (PSNERP).

Protecting and Restoring Nearshore Ecosystem Processes

The nearshore ecosystem of Puget Sound is a dynamic environment strongly shaped by physical and ecological processes. PSNERP guidance suggests that projects designed to protect and restore the ecosystem processes that shape and maintain nearshore structure will result in self-sustaining improvements in ecosystem functions, goods, and services, thereby justifying our capital investments in nearshore ecosystem projects. The broad restoration objectives identified by PSNERP and used by ESRP include:

  • 1. Restore the size and quality of large river delta estuaries and the nearshore processes deltas support.
  • 2. Restore the number and quality of coastal embayments.
  • 3. Restore the size and quality of beaches and bluffs.
  • 4. Increase understanding of natural process restoration in order to improve effectiveness of program actions.

The most competitive ESRP proposals will be those that directly support implementation of priority management measures and actions that will most fully addresses the source of degradation of these natural processes or that are focused on protection of intact areas.

Learning and Adaptive Management

Regional Feasibility and Predesign Projects (learning projects) are necessary to support restoration of large and complex ecosystems subject to multiple projects, or to improve effectiveness or efficiency of a class of projects where there is uncertainty about ecological outcomes. This component of ESRP’s investment strategy aims to clearly identify the need/problems to be addressed that will influence restoration and protection project development and selection in Puget Sound. ESRP learning projects will provide insight and analysis into the options available to solve complex problems leading to nearshore and salmon recovery in Puget Sound’s nearshore. We intend to fund efforts that use scientific methods during the 2017-2019 biennium to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of future ESRP program investments. ESRP’s learning project program is required by our authorizing program guidance, developed by the Puget Sound Nearshore and Ecosystem Restoration Project (PSNERP).

Strong learning projects improve our ability to select treatment locations and management measures, and help designers evaluate the consequences of alternative actions. We organize our learning by landform to consider the unique dynamics of delta, beach and embayment ecosystems. Examples of past learning project include development of design goals for delta channel formation and evaluation of how tide gate function affects estuarine fish passage. Projects that require more than a biennium to achieve strong results should be proposed, but must compete with shorter duration efforts based on importance and applicability.

ESRP Learning Objectives

For our 2018 RFP we have identified a set of seven broad learning project objectives. We will review learning project proposals through a multi-step process, beginning with a pre-proposal due April 12, 2018. We use a criteria based, peer-review process to inform a final scope and budget for selected efforts. Projects which do not meet the purposes for capital investments, but which are anticipated to advance to our understanding of the social and ecological systems that affect restoration and protection, will be recommended to the Puget Sound Partnership Science Panel for their consideration.

Learning projects have constituted approximately 10% of our biennial ESRP project portfolio. We anticipate that up to $1,500,000 will be available for learning project investments over the 2019-21 biennium, depending on final appropriations and proposals.

For a complete description of ESRP’s learning objectives see Appendix B.

River Deltas

Delta project work has been focused on the removal or modification of levees and dikes. We anticipate that management of freshwater distributary flows may be critical to future restoration of delta systems. The following learning project topics will receive additional attention in the 2016 learning project review:

  • Delta System Scale Analysis of Habitat Function and Resilience 
  • Critical Design Decisions Surrounding Levee Removal
  • Planning for Multiple Benefits from Delta Restoration


A limited but growing number of restoration actions restore beach sediment supply and are funded through the ESRP program. Current records suggest that new armoring construction and maintenance far exceeds restoration. The majority of beach project funding has been used to acquire parcels with feeder bluffs prior to development, at a high cost. The following learning project topics will receive additional attention in the 2016 learning project review: 

  • Identification of beach system targets
  • Development of pilot projects that result in protection of sediment sources using management measures that are more cost effective than parcel by parcel fee-simple acquisition. 


A number of ESRP actions involve the restoration of coastal inlets and barrier embayments. Local assessments provide our primary basis for project selection. We have no tools for tracking our work compared to historical losses, or to estimate the relative value of different actions in the embayment landscape. The following learning project topics will receive additional attention in the 2016 learning project review:

  • Inventory and characterization of Puget Sound sub-estuaries for restoration
  • Prediction of nearshore salmonid rearing services

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Applicants may be state, federal, local, or tribal agencies, non-governmental or pseudo-governmental organizations, and private or public corporations.
  • Basic ESRP Eligibility: 
    • Within Puget Sound (East of Cape Flattery)
    • The proposed project need must directly support implementation of priority management measures and actions identified by PSNERP, a salmon recovery Lead Entity or Marine Resource Committee, and listed in a current watershed, salmon recovery, or nearshore habitat restoration or protection plan.
    • The primary purpose of the project must be to restore or protect Puget Sound nearshore ecosystem processes or functions.
  • Eligibility Criteria for Learning Projects
    • Must not relieve a party of an obligatory requirement required for some kind of required mitigation or compensation.
    • Must be able to provide a cash or in-kind project match equal to 30% of the requested award.


  • Projects with the primary objective of providing recreational access, or remediating chemical contamination are not eligible as stand-alone projects; however these activities may be eligible components of larger efforts.
  • Projects awards will not be provided for work that relieves obligatory compensation or mitigation requirements incurred by the sponsor or a third-party, as determined by the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project or WDFW. Funding, however, may be provided for actions associated with compensation or mitigation, if those elements are above and beyond the mitigation requirements and can be easily isolated from the required mitigation activities.