Public invited to provide input on recreational features within Island Unit Restoration Project in Skagit River estuary

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Island Unit Restoration Project preliminary design concept Jan. 2024

News release

Contact: Jenny Baker, 360-855-8325
Media Contact: Chase Gunnell, 360-704-0258

MILL CREEK – As part of ongoing efforts to restore salmon habitat in the Skagit River estuary while considering hunting, wildlife watching, and other activities, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is inviting public input on recreational features within the Island Unit Restoration Project.

Public input is being accepted through Feb. 28, 2024 and can be provided using the interactive form at publicinput.com/islandunitrecreation which includes a map of the project area. A graphic showing the preliminary design is available online as well as a recorded presentation providing updates on the restoration project, including recreational features already included.

The Island Unit of Skagit Wildlife Area consists of approximately 270 acres of WDFW-managed public lands on two islands in the South Fork Skagit River near Conway. The unit is only accessible by boat and is popular for waterfowl hunting. Kayakers, boaters, photographers, and wildlife watchers also visit the site.

Historically, the area was a tidally influenced estuary that provided important rearing habitat for juvenile Chinook salmon. It was diked by settlers to support agriculture, and later acquired by WDFW in the 1950s and managed to produce forage for waterfowl and to support hunting opportunities.

Following the Endangered Species Act listing of Puget Sound Chinook in 1999, restoring Puget Sound estuary habitat was identified as a priority for salmon recovery. More information is available on this WDFW webpage.

The project to fully restore the Island Unit to estuary habitat was announced in February 2021 following extensive engagement with the Island Unit Advisory Committee, hunters, other stakeholders, and tribes, including a public comment period in 2020.

Project design work is now well underway, and WDFW is inviting input on watercraft landing areas, hunting and wildlife viewing blind locations, and other recreational features that may be created or improved within the project consistent with estuary habitat restoration objectives.

Restoration design, permitting and construction at the Island Unit will occur over the next several years and will involve excavating channels, removing tide gates and dikes, and incorporating features to support recreational uses. More information on the project, prior public and stakeholder engagement, and the Skagit Wildlife Area Island Unit Final Alternatives Analysis, is available on this webpage.

WDFW manages more than a million acres of land and hundreds of water access areas throughout the state. By actively managing lands, restoring habitats, and preserving wild places, the Department serves as stewards for Washington’s natural places, protecting the state’s land and water for its human and wildlife populations.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

Request this information in an alternative format or language at wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/requests-accommodation, 833-855-1012, TTY (711), or CivilRightsTeam@dfw.wa.gov.