Barnaby Reach Restoration Expected to Begin After At Least 10 Years | Local News
ROCKPORT – After several years of additional study and design work, organizations interested in restoring fish habitat in the Barnaby Reach near Rockport are ready to begin work.
In early July, a team will begin removing the old hatchery infrastructure to restore fish passage to Barnaby Slough, a horseshoe-shaped side channel of the River Skagit.
The area has long been identified as an important spawning and nursery habitat for salmon.
“This is a place on the Skagit River that has a lot of potential for chinook salmon restoration, (and) it involves a lot of floodplain reconnection,” said project consultant Cynthia Carlstad.
A rainbow trout hatchery operated at Barnaby Reach from the 1960s to 2007. The hatchery has since fallen into disuse and old infrastructure is blocking fish access to the floodplain.
The restoration project has been in the works for at least 10 years, with community members weighing in on various proposals over the years.
The State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Seattle City Light, and Nature Conservancy are partnering with the project. The three organizations collectively own approximately 1,200 acres at Barnaby Reach.
The project manager is the Skagit River System Cooperative, which provides natural resource management services to the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.
On June 12, around 20 members of the community took part in a public visit to learn about the work to come.
Carlstad said the project includes the removal of three cross dikes and a closed breeding pond. Other infrastructure, including water control structures, abandoned buildings and wells, will also be removed or decommissioned, she said.
“The project will include a variety of heavy construction equipment, including crawler excavators, all terrain dump trucks, bulldozers and a well drilling rig,” she said in a statement. -mail. “The noise levels will be typical of a construction site.”
Work is expected to start around July 6, she said. Everson-based Tiger Construction plans to complete work by Oct. 31.
The estimated cost of the work is $ 1.1 million, Carlstad said. She said the majority of the funding came from the state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency and Seattle City Light provide additional funds.
After the work, the area will be monitored to see how the fish are using the newly opened habitat. The hope is that the area will provide safe breeding habitat for young salmon.
“Juvenile salmon are very good at finding habitat that meets their needs,” Catherine Austin, of the Skagit River System Cooperative, said during the visit.
Carlstad said no salmon are currently using the swamp.
Matt Ethridge, a resident of Martin Ranch Road since 2016, attended the June 12 tour. He said he supported the proposed restoration work.
“It’s clear that opening (the swamp) will help it become a healthier ecosystem,” he said.
Dave Radosevich, of Sedro-Woolley, also attended the tour. He said he was a sport fisherman and had been involved in efforts to open Barnaby Slough for 20 years.
He said that because the area is no longer in use as a hatchery, it should be restored to its natural state.
“There are only common sense things that can be done to improve fish habitat,” he said.
The project also includes the addition of access for recreation.
Carlstad said the work will include changes to a driveway along Barnaby Slough and Martin Ranch roads to provide parking for up to four vehicles. This will extend an 800 foot hiking trail and improve visibility to cars parked along the main road.
In addition, a pedestrian bridge will be installed over Lucas Slough.
During the June 12 tour, several area residents raised concerns that better public access would bring crowds of hikers to the area.
Project partners said the idea is to maintain and improve public access to Barnaby Reach, not to expand it. No signs will be installed in the parking lot to make it a recreation area, they said.
“The aim is to make recreation safer and to keep it safe for those who live here,” Carlstad said on the tour.
Other tour participants raised concerns about the flooding. During discussions in 2015, some landowners objected to previous restoration options, fearing they could lead to their homes being flooded.
In an email, Carlstad said extensive flood modeling had been done for the project. She said the work was completed by Natural Systems Design and reviewed by an independent technical review committee.
“This shows that the work proposed for this summer will not increase flooding downstream of the project area,” she wrote in an email. “These screenings have been discussed with community members in one-on-one and small group meetings over the past year during COVID restrictions. “
Carlstad said the partners are carrying out the project in phases “in direct response to requests from community members to take a measured approach to the restoration work.”
The site will be monitored for at least several years before further work is considered, she said.
“The monitoring will focus on both the effectiveness of the project (are the fish using it in the expected way) and are the river and swamp responding in the way the design engineers expect,” he said. she writes in an email.
Howard Stafford, who has lived on Martin Ranch Road his entire life, has been involved in the project from the start. In a telephone interview after the tour, he said he supported the upcoming work and had no concerns about flooding.
He would like to see the swamp open up and is interested in the reaction of the salmon.
“At the moment (the salmon) is not reaching Barnaby Slough because of all the obstacles,” he said.
Stafford said he also did not share concerns expressed by others that the area is becoming a big recreation draw.
“It has never been a place of destination when it comes to tourism,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s going to happen that much there. “
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