Restoring a River Mouth At Port Susan Bay

Update: This project was completed in October 2012

Salmon, Dungeness crab, gray whales and people will find more to eat in Port Susan Bay once the Conservancy finishes a restoration project at the Port Susan Bay Preserve. Construction is well underway on the project to restore 150 acres of tidal wetlands and return natural processes to the bay, near Stanwood in Snohomish County.

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“This project is part of widespread, ongoing efforts to ensure the health of Puget Sound,” said Chris Davis, the Conservancy’s director of conservation for Puget Sound. “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.”

Restoration in Action

Contractors are building up a century-old dike that protects farmlands to the east of the preserve. Once that dike has been reinforced to 21st-century standards, the 50-year-old sea dike that artificially directed the river’s flow south in the bay will be removed. Then the river’s fresh water will once again wash through the northernmost end of Port Susan Bay, creating that rich interplay of fresh and salt water that’s so important for juvenile salmon and other marine life.

Read more about Puget Sound

In addition, the Conservancy is partnering 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.

 “Every salmon in the Stillaguamish River uses the delta at some point in its life, but the historical delta now includes a piece of the City of Stanwood, and a lot of fertile flat land that is a critical part of our food system,” said Paul Cereghino, Restoration Ecologist at NOAA Restoration Center, one of the project funders. “We have to look at fish, farm land protection, drainage infrastructure, sea level rise, development, and flood risk in an integrated way if we want delta landscapes to work for everyone into the future.”

Next Steps

The Conservancy owns the 4,122-acre Port Susan Bay Preserve, which encompasses much of the Stillaguamish River estuary. Public access to the 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.

Funding for the project comes from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the state Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, the state construction bill, NOAA’s Estuary Habitat Restoration Program and private donations.

Because of the scope of the project and the importance of estuaries to many 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.

The Power of Partnership

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
Stillaguamish Tribe
Tulalip Tribes
Snohomish Conservation District
Snohomish County
United States Army Corps of Engineers
Washington Department of Ecology
Washington Department of Natural Resources


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