Puget Sound’s ecosystem health took a leap forward with the recent signing of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report, which recommends large-scale restoration projects on three northwest Washington estuaries.
The Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project (PSNERP) received the Corps approval September 16, 2016, when Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite signed the Chief of Engineers Report, making it eligible for congressional authorization.
If the project receives authorization and funding for construction, it will restore natural functions of the Duckabush River Estuary, Nooksack River Delta and North Fork Skagit River Delta.
Led by the Corps’ Seattle District and non-federal sponsor Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), PSNERP is a collaborative effort between government agencies, tribes, universities and environmental organizations to restore Puget Sound nearshore areas. PSNERP’s General Investigation study began in 2001, analyzing over 500 sites along 2,500 miles of Puget Sound’s shoreline.
The study was designed to evaluate nearshore ecosystem changes, identify which changes were most problematic to Puget Sound’s health and recommend potential solutions. The resulting PSNERP feasibility study proposes a $452 million budget for the three large-scale estuary projects.
The Duckabush River Estuary project reconnects Hood Canal with intertidal wetlands, improving tidal exchange, sediment transport and estuary development. It will remove existing roads associated fill within the estuary and construct a new bridge spanning the estuarine delta. The project will restore tidal inundation and hydrology, and reconnect distributary channels to promote greater delta wetland habitat diversity.
Nooksack River Delta restoration is critical to some of Puget Sound’s largest salmon runs. The project will help restore scarce tidal freshwater wetlands and support productive estuarine mixing and tidal freshwater marshes. Tidal marshes provide habitat for birds and waterfowl, and are used by five species of Pacific salmon during critical life cycle portions. Restoration here provides 25 percent of the Puget Sound Action Agenda’s 2020 estuarine habitat recovery target.
The North Fork Skagit River Delta project restores estuarine emergent marsh, shrub and forested floodplain along the North Fork. It improves connectivity and reduces fragmentation along the channel. Restoration actions will lower the levee along the north and south banks and construct a levee along the current road. Breaches in lowered levees and excavated channels will allow restored floodplain inundation.