Notice: Leque Island will be closed from July 22nd, 2019 through mid-November for construction. For more information, please see the press release.
Leque Island, located west of Stanwood between Port Susan and Skagit bays, was once entirely salt marsh. Today it consists of wetlands and previously farmed fields surrounded by perimeter dikes. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) began acquiring properties on Leque Island in 1974, and currently owns the entirety of the island. The Leque Island Unit is part of the Skagit Wildlife Area.
The perimeter dikes on the island have repeatedly failed during high tide and storm events, most recently in 2016. Each breached section of dike was temporarily repaired until a long-term solution could be found. Removing all or some of the dikes was determined to be the best solution.
To help with decision-making on project design moving forward, WDFW and partners engaged local stakeholders and formed a committee of outdoor recreationists, local jurisdictions, tribal representatives, and farmers to guide the process beginning in 2013. In the end, the committee ranked the full restoration design higher than the partial and no restoration alternatives. WDFW selected that design alternative to move forward for engineering and construction.
Beginning in July 2019, WDFW and partners are constructing the Leque Island Estuary Restoration Project. Removing over 2.4 miles of levee will restore 250 acres of tidal marsh habitat in the Stillaguamish River watershed where 85 percent of historic tidal marsh has been displaced. Estuaries are important for juvenile Chinook salmon as they transition from fresh to salt water, as well as shorebirds, waterfowl, and a host of other species in the area. Because Puget Sound's southern resident killer whales rely upon Chinook salmon for food, the project is also closely aligned with orca recovery efforts.
In addition to habitat restoration benefits, a 0.7-mile wave protection berm will be constructed to protect the City of Stanwood. This berm will also serve as an elevated walking trail that will allow people to continue to enjoy the property. A new small boat launch will allow hand-carry boats to put in on the west side of the project area for paddling access in the new tidal channels. WDFW has also partnered with the City of Stanwood to build a new larger boat launch for motorized boats slightly upriver near the Hamilton Smokestack in 2020.
Project construction will begin on July 22nd, 2019. At that time, the site will be closed to recreational users. The site will reopen after the wave protection berm is built and the perimeter dikes are removed, in mid-November 2019.
To get more information about the Leque Island restoration project, please contact Project Manager Loren Brokaw at Loren.Brokaw@dfw.wa.gov or 425-775-1311, ext. 105.