River Restoration Project Gets $1 Million Lift
Kitsap, Sun., July 22, 2006, Christopher Dunagan
Photo credit: August, 2006.
Skokomish—The dream of restoring the Skokomish River estuary to
a more natural condition could soon be realized now that almost
$1 million is available for the massive project.
Removing about 5,000 feet of dikes will infuse saltwater into the
broad Skokomish River delta, the largest river system in Hood Canal.
What are now fresh water wetlands will revert to productive salt
marshes that existed before farmers built berms to graze cattle and
grow hay and other crops in the fertile soil.
For many years, members of the Skokomish Tribe have dreamed
of restoring the estuary, which could once again become an incredible
nursery for young salmon. The Skokomish is the only river in Hood Canal
that supports all fish listed as threatened under the Endangered Species
Act: Puget Sound chinook, Hood Canal summer chum and coastal Puget
Sound bull trout.
Native plants could be restored to the area, providing habitat for
birds and wildlife. And the sweet grass and native plants used in
traditional basket weaving could once again thrive, helping to foster
an important part of the Skokomish culture, experts say.
Four years ago, the plan was to breach the dike in several places
to bring saltwater into the marsh, said Jack Turner, the tribe’s hydrologist. But the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers dared to consider a bigger plan — removing
the dike entirely.
A $990,296 grant was approved for the estuary at the end of last
week under the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, funded by
the Legislature this year as part of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s Puget
The Skokomish project is one of nine projects able to
meet an early-action deadline for funding this year. Another was
Belfair State Park, where $200,000 was earmarked for restoring the
estuary of Big and Little Mission Creeks.
The grant will pay to remove about 3,600 feet of dike on the west
side of Nalley Slough, remove an elevated road network that holds
back natural flows and construct a boardwalk to maintain access to
Hood Canal beaches. This "phase 1" work
is part of an effort to restore more than 100 acres of intertidal
wetlands on the former Nalley Farm.
Other funds are coming from the state’s Salmon Recovery Funding
Program and the National Coastal Wetlands program.
Preliminary work could begin this summer, but most of the construction
is planned for next year, Tanner said. The project will be supervised
by the city of Tacoma, which owns the land, and the Skokomish Tribe,
which has its home at the nearby reservation.
The Army Corps of Engineers will take the lead on a second phase
of the project, which will remove dikes around Nalley Island in the
eastern portion of the Skokomish delta. That project, which is still
being planned, could be even bigger than the first phase, Tanner
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