A dike was breached at two locations just south of Marysville near SR-529 last week in an effort to restore about 11 acres of estuary habitat.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has been working on the project since July.
The goal is to restore some estuary habitat (where fresh and saltwater mix) which are vital to many species of fish and birds.
Since the summer, construction crews have been removing trees and other fill that has been in the area.
WSDOT hopes to create about 11 acres of new estuary with the project.
The funding comes from mitigation funds for the upcoming SR-529/I-5 interchange which is scheduled to begin next year.
“We’re going to need about 2 to 2.5 acres [of estuary] when we do the SR-529/I-5 Interchange project. So we’re going to have to take some wetlands for that, but we’ve put in a lot more than we’re going to take,” said Tom Pearce, WSDOT communications director.
The project will restore the area at the north end of SR-529 to it’s historic state.
“We’ve lost a lot of the habitat in this area to development over the last 150 years,” said Pearce. “WSDOT filled this area a long time ago to build SR-529 and then later to build I-5. It was to build up the ground because this was all low, swampy marsh.”
The ground will still be built up to support SR-529 and I-5, but much of the area did not need to be filled in decades ago when I-5 was built.
“A long time ago people didn’t think as much about the environmental effects,” said Pearce.
Pearce said that WSDOT has done other projects like this local estuary habitat restoration.
“We haven’t done a lot, but we have done some,” he said.
Usually the animals are quick to return to the area.
“We’ll start to see fish and birds in here almost immediately. To them, the flow is going this way and the current will bring them in,” said Pearce.
“From environmental projects like this you see that happen almost immediately,” he said.
The plants will take a little while longer to grow into the estuary habitat.
“In a few years this will look like all the other wetland areas in this area. It will take a couple years for all the plants to grow,” he said.
WSDOT contractors removed a lot of the vegetation and trees and are in the process of putting in more native plants to the restoration area.
Many of the trees that were cut down were kept on site to give the birds and fish a more natural habitat.
On midnight on Oct. 3 and 4 the crew breached the dike near Steamboat Slough which has allowed tidal waters to flow back into the area.
“We needed a low tide to open the dike and the schedule lined up well, so we were able to get that done on time,” said Pearce.
More information about the project is available at wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr529/steamboat-slough/home.