Tulalip partners on estuary restoration nearing completion

Qwuloolt estuary_2Completion is in sight for the Qwuloolt project, one of the largest estuary restorations in the country.

Restoring tidal flow to the 400-acre estuary is a partnership among the Tulalip Tribes, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the city of Marysville, as well as other local, state and federal agencies. Planning for the $11 million project dates back 20 years and involves funding from multiple sources.

“Sometimes it takes a long time to get things done,” said Tulalip Tribes board member Glen Gobin. “None of this could have happened without everyone working together. Most of us will not see the benefits in our lifetime, but our children and grandchildren will see it.”

The estuary was drained and diked for farming in the early 1900s, keeping juvenile salmon from accessing the habitat they need to feed and mature before out-migrating to Puget Sound. The eventual goal of the restoration is to recover salmon populations enough to sustain a tribal fishery.

“Our ancestors built a strong and thriving economy from the salmon trade over many thousands of years,” said Tulalip Chairman Mel Sheldon. “Today, the wild runs are in a state of crisis. Our partnership with the Corps is a vitally important step in the effort to reconnect Qwuloolt to the natural processes of the estuary and will eventually provide critical rearing habitat for salmon.”

In the final phases, a new setback levee will be constructed as the existing levee is breached and lowered in places. Thousands of feet of riparian and wetland berm will be constructed.

“Since 2007, we’ve constructed 9,000 feet of stream channel,” said Kurt Nelson, project manager for Tulalip. “We’re hopeful that with constructing the levee this year, and the breach in 2014, the project will be largely completed.”

Another key component is site monitoring, Nelson added. The tribal natural resources department has been monitoring the estuary for six years and will continue to do so after the restoration is complete.

“We need to monitor habitat restoration so we can see what works,” Nelson said.

For more information about the project, visit www.tulalip.nsn.us/qwuloolt