The Swinomish Channel was once a complex waterway that conveyed freshwater from the North Fork Skagit River to the expansive mudflats of Padilla Bay. Within this landscape, the Smokehouse tidelands existed as a network of intertidal channels with areas of salt marsh, mud flats, intertidal wetlands, and uplands. With the completion of the Army Corps of Engineers Swinomish Navigation Channel Dredging Project in 1937, over 900 acres of tideland along the Swinomish Channel were diked and drained and the landscape experienced a dramatic change. While the Army Corps’ project produced a sheltered and predictable waterway for boat traffic within the Swinomish Channel, it significantly degraded the Smokehouse tidelands. The installation of tide gates and dikes blocked Juvenile Chinook salmon and other fish from accessing the historic Smokehouse tidal channels and buried much of the intertidal habitat under dredge spoils.
The Smokehouse tidelands were returned to tribal ownership in 2000. Since then, the Skagit River System Cooperative, Swinomish Tribal Community, and many project partners, have been restoring estuarine habitat within the Smokehouse tidelands while also demonstrating the coexistence of farming and fish in Skagit Valley. Between 2005 and 2014, the project team opened more than five miles of intertidal channel habitat to fish by installing three new bridges to replace non-functioning or partially blocking culverts and replacing four top-hinged “flap style” tide gates—which inhibit the movement of fish and water into the Smokehouse tidal channels—with self-regulating tide gates (SRTs). In addition, the project team excavated dredge spoils to restore 4.2 acres of salt marsh habitat at the mouth of the tidal channel networks in 2008.
The Skagit River System Cooperative and the project partners continue to monitor, revegetate, and steward the Smokehouse project site. We have enhanced the riparian corridors by planting over 83 acres (54,000 plants) with native vegetation and 37 acres along the reconnected tidal channels have passively revegetated with salt marsh species. The Smokehouse tidal channels are once again being used by Juvenile Chinook, dungeness crab, and other species that were previously unable to access the site.
The next phase of the Smokehouse Tidal Marsh Project will build upon previous successes by restoring approximately 120 acres of estuarine tidal marsh with a levee setback. This project will construct approximately 5,900 linear feet of new dike along a historic channel alignment and remove or breach the historic dike adjoining the Swinomish Channel, restoring ecological function to this area. Surrounding infrastructure including the Swinomish Channel and active farmland adjacent to the project site will be safeguarded. We have completed site feasibility work: hydrology modeling, geotechnical reports, and cultural work and we are entering the final design phase.
Primary Project Contact
Catey Richie, Project Manager
Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board
Seattle City Light Non-Flow Coordinating Committee
Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program (ESRP)
Swinomish Indian Tribal Community
USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service
Washington State RCO – Salmon Recovery Funding Board