The Fir Island Farms Estuary Restoration project is located on the WDFW Snow Goose Reserve on Fir Island in the Skagit River Delta. The project will set back approximately 5,800 feet of an existing dike and restore 131 acres of tidal marsh and tidal channels. These habitat elements are important for juvenile chinook salmon. In addition to habitat restoration, this project incorporates protections to reduce flooding, maintain drainage, and prevent saltwater intrusion on surrounding farmland. WDFW worked closely with Consolidated Drainage and Diking District 22 to ensure the final project meets the District’s flood protection and agricultural drainage standards. The feasibility work for this project started in 2011; WDFW is anticipating completion of construction in fall 2016.
Key Design Elements
- Restore 131 acres of estuary habitat for juvenile Chinook rearing
- Preserve 100 acres of protected snow goose forage and farmable area
- Remove existing marine dike
- Construct 5,800 feet of new marine dike
- Construct pump station, tidegates, and storage pond
- Summer 2015 – Construct new dike, pump station, marsh grading, and pilot channels
- Summer 2016 – Remove existing marine dike
The Skagit River is the largest river draining to Puget Sound and supports all five native salmon species However, since the 1800s about 72 percent of the historic tidal marsh habitat has been lost.
In 1999, the federal government listed Chinook salmon populations in Puget Sound – including those in the Skagit River – for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The recovery plan developed in 2005 for Skagit River Chinook identified the restoration of estuary habitat as a top priority for recovering those populations.
This project will build on other restoration projects in the delta, significantly contributing to recovery of Skagit River Chinook and benefitting other fish and wildlife species. Salt marsh and tidal (estuary) channel habitat are critical for migrating juvenile salmon as they transition from fresh to salt water. This essential habitat has lower salinity levels and provides food and shelter for salmon to grow to sizes that increase their chance of survival in Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean.
Protecting agricultural land
People have been farming since the late 1800s in the Skagit Delta, which is recognized as having some of the most agriculturally productive and valuable farmland in the world. Agriculture remains an important component of the local economy and the community’s identity. The Fir Island Farm project is an example of how local agricultural leaders and the state can work together to develop a project that benefits salmon recovery while preserving productive farmland.
Snow Goose Reserve
The Reserve will be maintained as a non-hunting reserve for snow geese, shorebirds, and other waterfowl. The reserve attracts tens of thousands of snow geese each year between October and April. Following construction, the viewing area will be open for public access. A driveway and short trail along the dike will be maintained to offer views of snow geese and other wildlife against a background of Skagit Bay and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains.