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Swinomish Tribe & NRCS Re-establish Fish Passage, Pocket Estuary & Ties to the Past

Highlights in Conservation icon

Swinomish Tribe & NRCS Re-establish Fish Passage, Pocket Estuary & Ties to the Past

Pictured above: The completion of the project eliminated the corrugated metal culverts allowing fish to spawn and grow in the estuary habitat before entering Puget Sound. Photo provided by Erica Fifer.

Pictured above: The completion of the project eliminated the corrugated metal culverts allowing fish to spawn and grow in the estuary habitat before entering Puget Sound. Photo provided by Erica Fifer.

Location icon
Skagit County

Project Summary icon
Removal of three culverts that were fish passage barriers. Two culverts replaced, one with a bridge and one crossing eliminated. Re-establishment of estuary area and planting of culturally significant species.

Conservation Partners icon
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Swinomish Tribal Community, and Skagit River Systems Cooperative

Resource Challenges icon
Three existing culverts blocked fish passage and greatly reduced tidal exchange into a historical and culturally significant estuary and creek system. The small off channel streams are significant for juvenile rearing and there are few within the area.

Conservation Program Used icon
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) - three culverts removed, several hundred feet of stable open channel created, six log drop structures installed, arch culvert installed, bridge installed, excavation to re-create estuary habitat and improve tidal exchange.

Innovations and Highlights icon
After completion of the design and during installation, a new biologist with Skagit River Systems Cooperative became involved. He suggested several large changes to the project to greatly increase the amount of estuary habitat. At one point we modified the elevations on-site, revising the log drops, culvert elevations and channel slope. In the long run, it created a better project. While this is a campground now, the site is very significant to the tribe. The tribal elders all discussed learning to canoe and fish in the estuary and downstream lagoon. Culturally significant plants were gathered in the estuary that was re-established. Overall, the best lesson was that by working with partners, integrating various objectives and being open to revisions and changes in the field, the final project was one that everyone liked and that exceeded expectations on site.

Results and Accomplishments icon
The fish passage barriers were removed. The downstream culvert was replaced with a 50’ span bridge. Upstream of the bridge, the channel and ‘field’ were excavated. An estuary area was created with an island in the middle. The second crossing (upstream of the estuary) was replaced by a 10’ span arched culvert. The 3rd culvert was completely removed. A stable open channel section was excavated and six log drops were placed. Additional work was completed upstream above the reach and several additional blockages were removed. This work was completed at the same time, but the design and inspection was completed using different funds and partners. Culturally significant species have been planted and more will be planted in the future. After work was completed, the tribe held a blessing ceremony. Elders told stories of living next to the site and of learning to fish and canoe and of collecting plants on the site before the roads were all installed. They also spoke of the cultural importance of the work that was completed.

Contact icon
Erica Fifer, Mount Vernon Field Office, (360) 428-7684 ext. 135

NRCS, Fall 2007


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