Two projects to restore the health of Port Susan Bay, improve habitat for salmon, birds and other wildlife, and improve flood protection for farmers have wrapped up and The Nature Conservancy celebrated their completion with partners Wednesday, Dec. 5.
The Conservancy completed a 150-acre tidal marsh restoration at the Port Susan Bay Preserve at the mouth of the Stillaguamish River, and a 10-acre pocket estuary restoration at Livingston Bay, an inlet on the eastern shore of Camano Island that is part of the much larger Port Susan Bay.
Together, the Port Susan Bay restoration and the Livingston Bay Pocket Estuary restoration are bringing essential natural processes back to more than 4,000 acres of tidelands at the northern end of Port Susan Bay. Tidal wetlands that support estuary-dependent animals have been restored, juvenile Chinook salmon now have access to restored habitats, and a stronger connection between the river and tidal habitats in the northeastern portion of Port Susan Bay will improve the resilience of the bay and estuary to sea level rise. Healthier tidal wetlands will mean more food in the system for salmon, waterfowl, Dungeness crabs and people.
At the same time, these restoration projects touched more than 130 jobs, including construction, science, engineering and project management.
“This is a good example of public money providing multiple benefits,” said Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish. “Good habitat restoration also creates jobs, reduces the risk of flood damage, protects farmland and gains local landowner and community support.”
“Estuary restoration is important for the overall recovery of Puget Sound as is one of the areas we are seeing progress thanks to efforts like this,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “The Port Susan Bay project is a prime example of a community coming together to fix a problem and not leave it lingering for future generations.”
At Port Susan Bay, the Conservancy removed 1.3 miles of sea dike that had been built in the 1950's in an attempt to create more farmland. The Conservancy built almost a mile of new dike roughly following the original shoreline that will protect neighboring farms. In collaboration with the Stillaguamish Flood Control District, new emergency floodgates were installed to improve flood relief for those farms and the ability of fish caught in floodwaters to return to the natural system.
At Livingston Bay, the Conservancy removed a section of manmade dike that blocked natural inlets and outlets for the estuary. This effort allowed the tide back in, and with it fish and other organisms looking for a pocket of estuary habitat for food or shelter.
Both of these projects are highlighted in the Conservation Action Plan for the Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area. This collaborative planning effort is coordinating strategic conservation actions among over 30 partners around the bay to work toward a healthy and sustainable Port Susan for years to come.
The Port Susan Bay project cost about $4 million from feasibility through the end of the project, while the much smaller Livingston Bay project cost about $380,000.
Funding for the projects came from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the state Jobs Bill, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the state Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Program, Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, and private donations.
Because of the scope of the Port Susan Bay 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.
Project partners include:
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.
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