OLYMPIA – Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are moving forward with a 38-acre estuary restoration project on Hood Canal. Estuaries in Puget Sound and Hood Canal are critical habitat for Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed chum and Chinook salmon, a key prey of southern resident killer whales.
A design agreement signed by WDFW Director Kelly Susewind and Corps Colonel Geraldi allows the Corps to begin the design phase of a large restoration at the mouth of the Duckabush River in Hood Canal. If completed, the project would relocate and elevate the highway and bridge across the estuary, reestablishing hydrologic connectivity and restoring important estuary habitat.
“Projects like this are key to improving the overall health of Hood Canal and Puget Sound. We have a variety of challenges in conserving our salmon populations, so creating more habitat for juvenile salmon to eat and grow before they journey into open waters is one of the most important things we can do,” said Susewind. “Having this shared vision with the Corps exemplifies the kinds of partnerships we need moving forward if we want to change the current trajectory.”
The Duckabush estuary project was identified through the Puget Sound Nearshore Estuary Restoration Project (PSNERP), an effort between WDFW, Corps, and partners to evaluate the conditions of Puget Sound’s shorelines and identify opportunities to make improvements. This design agreement marks an important transition for PSNERP as the first example of their efforts to focus on project implementation.
“It’s great to initiate the design phase with WDFW on a project that will benefit Puget Sound’s Chinook and orcas at such a critical time,” said Seattle District Commander Col. Mark Geraldi. “In 2016, congress authorized three PSNERP projects that could ultimately restore 2,100 acres of critical habitat. We’ve been working on this for a very long time and getting to this point is a testament to the hard work and dedication by the federal and state agencies, tribes, academia, and other organizations who’ve been involved.”
WDFW is initiating a state environmental review process, and will engage with the public and interested parties to explain the project benefits and incorporate input into project design. A public meeting is anticipated for early summer in Brinnon.
The Washington Department of Transportation will also be an integral part of the data collection and design work as the eventual bridge and highway improvements will better serve the public by meeting modern design and safety standards.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting, and other recreation opportunities.