by Emily Howe, TNC Aquatic Ecologist
On Thursday, May 18th, we had the honor of welcoming Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves to The Nature Conservancy’s Port Susan Bay Preserve and the Stillaguamish Tribe’s adjacent zis a ba II restoration site. We were accompanied by our friends and partners from the Stillaguamish and Tulalip Tribes, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and Congressman Rick Larsen’s office, all of whom have been working for decades to recover salmon through habitat restoration, protection, and policy. The Stillaguamish restoration sites are part of a $24 million project package funded by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) that will move 23 projects forward across the whole of the Whidbey Basin, which includes the Skagit, Stillaguamish, and Snohomish Rivers. The nine contributing partners to the project represent a long history of collaboration and commitment to place—two intangibles in the recipe that makes transformational restoration work possible.
BIL funding will help TNC and the Stillaguamish Tribe restore over 400 acres of estuarine tidal wetlands and sloughs at the mouth of the Stillaguamish River. The projects will work together as one continuous marsh; setting back levees and carving a network of tidal channels to restore critical habitat for endangered juvenile Chinook salmon. The Stillaguamish work is particularly critical, as Stillaguamish Chinook are the weakest stock of the endangered Puget Sound Chinook population. TNC has owned and managed nearly 4,000 acres of estuarine habitat at the Port Susan Bay Preserve since 2001 and continually works with partners throughout the basin to advance salmon recovery, migratory bird, and floodplain projects that benefit people and nature.