A report that recommends large-scale restoration projects on three northwest Washington estuaries was recently signed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The concisely titled Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project (PSNERP) received official approval when Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite signed the report, making it eligible for congressional authorization. If the project receives authorization and funding, it will restore natural functions of the Duckabush River Estuary, Nooksack River Delta, and North Fork Skagit River Delta.
PSNERP is a collaborative effort between government agencies, tribes, universities, and environmental organizations to restore Puget Sound waters. The general investigation study for PSNERP began in 2001 and analyzed over 500 sites along 2,500 of Puget Sound shoreline. PSNERP proposes a $452 million budget for the three large estuary projects.
“Puget Sound’s beaches, embayments, and delta shorelines were heavily impacted by urban development over the last 150 years,” said Seattle District Commander Col. John Buck in a press release. “The recommended plan will restore over 2,100 acres of this degraded habitat.”
The Duckabush River Estuary project reconnects Hood Canal with intertidal wetlands, and also improves tidal exchange, sediment transport, and estuary development. The project will remove existing roads and construct a new bridge spanning the estuarine delta. Tidal inundation and hydrology will be restored, and distributary channels will be reconnected to promote greater delta wetland habitat diversity. The Nooksack River Delta restoration is important to some of Puget Sound’s largest salmon runs, and the project will help restore 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% 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 floodplains along the North Fork. It improves connectivity and reduces fragmentation of bodies of water along the channel. Restoration actions will lower the levee along the north and south banks and construct a levee along the current road.
The signing of PSNERP seems to be a step in the right direction as far as habitat restoration is concerned, especially for those of us worried about Puget Sound salmon. Time will tell if it receives authorization and funding from congress.