Construction workers began to intentionally breach a dike at Port Susan Bay Friday morning, a significant milestone in a Nature Conservancy project to restore about 150 acres of tidal marsh, improve connections to about 4,000 acres of estuary habitat and enhance flood protection to farmers on the Stillaguamish Delta in Port Susan Bay in Snohomish County.
“This project is part of a widespread, ongoing effort to ensure the health of Puget Sound,” said the Conservancy’s Washington Interim Director Len Barson. “We expect this restoration project to pay off for local communities with more salmon, a healthier Port Susan Bay and better infrastructure to protect surrounding farmland against flooding.”
“This is the kind of collaboration for estuary restoration that is crucial for the recovery of Puget Sound,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “It’s good for Puget Sound, it’s good for salmon and other wildlife, and it’s good for people.”
The breaching, which began Friday and will be complete Saturday, came after months of preparatory work. Since April, contractors have built a new dike along the eastern edge of the Port Susan Bay Preserve and partnered with the Stillaguamish Flood Control District to build an emergency floodgate that will provide flood relief for farmland on Florence Island, between Hatt Slough and the Old Stilly Channel.
The Conservancy owns the 4,122-acre Port Susan Bay Preserve, which encompasses much of the Stillaguamish River estuary. Friday’s work opened 150 acres of former tidelands once behind a sea dike to the bay. It also enabled fresh water from the Stillaguamish River once again to drift north as it comes out of the mouth of the river and revitalize the health and productivity of the northern reaches of the Bay.
Public access to Port Susan Bay preserve is closed during the restoration project, which is expected to be completed by the end of October. Once the restoration is complete, the site will reopen for visitors by reservation.
The lead construction contractor is Northwest Construction, Inc., from Bellevue. Anchor QEA provided construction management on behalf of The Nature Conservancy. Other contractors are providing engineering and archaeological support during construction.
The project will cost roughly $4 million for pre-construction, construction and post-construction work. Funding for the project comes from the state Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Program, Salmon Recovery Funding Board, Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, the new state construction bill, NOAA’s Estuary Habitat Restoration Program and private donations.
This restoration, like the recently completed Fisher Slough restoration in Skagit County, will demonstrate that habitat restoration, farmland protection and flood risk reduction can be combined in one project. The Conservancy is working with partners around Puget Sound to protect and restore our most important rivers and shorelines for the clean water and habitat they provide, so that they can continue to support fisheries, farming and other community needs.
Because of the scope of the project and the importance of estuaries to a broad array of people, the Conservancy engaged a broad-based technical advisory committee to help inform and guide project design including the flood district, landowners, biologists, permitting agencies and tribal officials.
This multiple-benefits project would not have been possible without strong partnerships. Project partners include:
Stillaguamish Flood Control District
Twin City Foods
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Washington Recreation and Conservation Office
Stillaguamish Watershed Council
Puget Sound Partnership
Snohomish Conservation District
United States Army Corps of Engineers
Washington Department of Ecology
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
The Nature Conservancy in Washington