Greg Hood of SRSC is among a group of scientists receiving a grant to devise a computer model of the Skagit River Delta and Skagit and Padilla bays if the oceans rise.

The Skagit Valley Herald:

Rising ocean levels could change change approaches to restoration of salt marshes and the Skagit River estuary that the threatened Chinook and other salmon species need to thrive.

Three Western Washington scientists — Greg Hood, John Rybczyk and Tarang Khangaonkar — will build a computer model to predict what could happen to the Skagit River Delta and Skagit and Padilla bays if the oceans rise. Scientists say the model will help them make decisions about where to best to restore salmon habitat restoration and what might happen if dikes are removed.

“For the Skagit, if we can develop a model that we have some confidence in, then we can plan for the future,” said Hood, senior restoration ecologist at the Skagit River System Cooperative.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency awarded the three scientists a three-year grant for $879,247 to fund both field research in the delta and the construction of the computer model.

The project will expand on research and computer models on Puget Sound, wetlands and salmon habitat that each of the men has done independent of each other. Hood, Rybczyk and Khangaonkar plan to link three separate computer models that respectively give information on ocean, marsh and river systems. To that computer cluster, they will add the results of field research in salmon habitat, climate data and information on Skagit River flows and sediments.

Ultimately, they expect to be able to predict how the estuary systems in Skagit and Padilla bays will react to climate changes caused by rising oceans, as well as changes to river flows caused by melting glaciers. Their work has the potential to be more detailed than existing computer models on the Puget Sound, said Khangaonkar, whose field is physical oceanography, the study of the physical forces affecting the oceans. Khangaonkar is also an expert in computer modeling.