Work resumes on Wiley Slough project in Skagit River delta

Crews have begun the next phase of construction on the Wiley Slough restoration project, which will return tidal flow to a former estuary in the Skagit River delta.

The Skagit River System Cooperative (SRSC) — the natural resources arm of the Swinomish and Sauk-Suiattle tribes — is working on the project with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) along with other partners.

From the WDFW press release:

Crews are beginning the second year of the restoration project, which includes finishing the construction of a new setback dike inland along the border of the wildlife area. Work on the setback dike began last year, along with the installation of a new, larger tidegate farther upstream on Wiley Slough.

Work scheduled later this summer will include removing approximately 6,500 feet of dikes and levees, allowing tides and the river to reclaim the area south of the new setback dike.

WDFW owns and manages the entire 16,708-acre Skagit Wildlife Area to preserve habitat for fish and wildlife, and provide a site for outdoor recreation. (WDFW regional wildlife manager Lora) Leschner suggests that boaters use the ramp in Conway off Fir Island Road as an alternative while work is under way on the restoration project.

First proposed in 2002 by the Skagit Watershed Council, the Wiley Slough project is designed to restore 160 acres of estuarine salmon habitat that was diked and drained to create farmland in 1962. The federal salmon recovery plan for Puget Sound identifies the project as an important step toward restoring chinook stocks in the Skagit River.