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$70,000 grant to clean Island County beaches

Island County is going forward with an assortment of environmental projects along the shores of both Whidbey and Camano Island.

To do these projects, Island County received $70,000 in state grant money.

The money will allow several projects to proceed that officials hope will improve the habitat around the shores of Island County.

"We've identified three projects that would be good for our near shore areas," said Don Meehan of the Washington State University Extension office.

At Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island, workers will plant vegetation to improve the shading near the shoreline which enhances the environment for fish eggs to develop.

The boat ramp at the park will be removed and a new one will be put in that will be less invasive to the fish habitat.

Meehan said part of the grant money will go toward the removal of spartina grass populations.

"We've been fighting this for years and years," Meehan said.

The non-native grass, which is considered a noxious weed by Island County, grows in salt water and destroys part of the local habitat, Meehan said.

He added that there will also be an educational component to the spartina grass removal. Meehan is negotiating with South Whidbey High School to teach students about the weed. In turn, they will work with area homeowners to eliminate it.

The county's Marine Resources Committee will be conducting a shoreline hardening study, which is documenting the types of man-made structures along Island County shores.

"We want to understand the connection between hardening and the habitat," Meehan said.

He added that the Island County Public Works Department is assisting in the survey by providing equipment and funding to the survey. Such a survey helps the public works department better understand what is being discharged into Puget Sound.

Meehan said the majority of the projects should be completed by the end of 2003. Progress reports on the projects have to be made in July with final reports to be given in December and January 2004.

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