Estuary restoration moving forward on Hood Canal

Federal, state agencies enter design phase on Duckabush project

BRINNON — Out of more than 500 projects proposed in the Puget Sound, 38 acres along the Duckabush River on Hood Canal have been selected by the Puget Sound Nearshore Estuary Restoration Project as one of three areas for restoration.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are beginning a design phase to restore and elevate a bridge on U.S. Highway 101 and reconnect the estuary to benefit critical habitat.

“Various salmon stocks — chum and Hood Canal chinook — would stand to benefit from a restoration project,” said Seth Ballhorn, a nearshore communications manager for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

While it’s still in a pre-construction phase, the estimated cost is $90.5 million and would reconnect floodplains with the intertidal wetlands to improve tidal exchange, sediment transport and estuary development, according to project documents.

The two other selected projects involve the Nooksack River delta and the North Fork Skagit River delta.

Congress is expected to appropriate funds for 65 percent of the project cost through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the state Legislature is funding Fish and Wildlife at 35 percent of the project costs through the capital budget, Ballhorn said.

A public meeting will be scheduled in Brinnon during the early summer months to provide additional details and solicit public feedback on the Duckabush design.

Puget Sound Nearshore Estuary Restoration Project “looked at 500 projects, whittled them down to projects where we can conduct restoration to fit within the Army Corps construction authority, and looked at where would we have the greatest bang for our buck in terms of restoration projects,” Ballhorn said.

“This one rose to the top as a place with some of the greatest opportunity.”

The Corps has completed a feasibility study and has moved into engineering design.

“Projects like this are key to improving the overall health of Hood Canal and Puget Sound,” Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind stated in a press release.

“We have a variety of challenges in conserving our salmon populations, so creating more habitat for juvenile salmon to eat and grow before they journey into open waters is one of the most important things we can do.

“Having this shared vision with the Corps exemplifies the kinds of partnerships we need moving forward if we want to change the current trajectory.”

The chum and chinook, which are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, are key prey of Southern Resident orcas.

Col. Mark Geraldi, Seattle District Commander of the Corps, said Congress authorized the three Puget Sound projects in 2016 that could ultimately restore 2,100 acres of critical habitat.

“We’ve been working on this for a very long time, and getting to this point is a testament to the hard work and dedication by the federal and state agencies, tribes, academia and other organizations who’ve been involved,” Geraldi said in the press release.

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at bmclean@peninsuladailynews.com.

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