Conveyor trucks were used to deliver sediments to beach faces along West March's Point Road.
Conveyor trucks were used to deliver sediments to beach faces along West March’s Point Road.

The West March’s Point Beach Nourishment project was implemented along the shoreline of western March’s Point in 2010. The project site is along the eastern shoreline of Fidalgo Bay, portions of which are a Washington Department of Natural Resources Aquatic Reserve. Substantial development, including March’s Point Road, a Burlington Northern Railroad Spur, and the Tesoro refinery are immediately upslope of the beach.

The project was intended to enhance forage fish, specifically surf smelt, spawning habitat value through beach cleanup and sediment nourishment along the central shore of western March’s Point. This beach has been substantially adversely impacted by the placement of the road immediately adjacent to the marine bank and associated rock shore protection along the upper beach and lower bank (Johannessen and MacLennan, 2007).

Forage fish are small, schooling fish that are key prey for larger predatory fish, such as salmon. Surf smelt spawning habitat areas are found in the upper intertidal portion of fine gravel and sand beaches. Incubation periods for surf smelt eggs vary from a few weeks to a month depending on temperature and season (Penttila, 2007). The quality of forage fish spawning habitat is affected by the substrate of the beach. Erosion of coastal bluffs and shorelines is the primary source of beach sediments. Shoreline armoring such as rip-rap and bulkheads reduce the sediment transport and supply to down-drift beaches, resulting in changes to the beach profile, reduced intertidal habitat, temperature and moisture changes and substrate composition, thus reducing forage fish spawning.

The West March’s Point Beach Nourishment project is intended to limit degradation of the beach substrates and enhance beach substrates in the near term until process-based sediment source restoration can occur throughout the drift cell. As part of the project, rip-rap that had toppled onto the beach face was re-keyed, and existing beach substrates were nourished with a sand/gravel mix appropriate to the site. Site appropriate vegetation was planted adjacent to forage fish spawning beaches to provide shade and bank stabilization.

Typical beach face following nourishment.

In the summer of 2010, more than 10,000 tons of beach nourishment material was placed along the western shoreline of March’s Point within two beach nourishment areas. Material was placed from the March’s Point Road surface using conveyor trucks, so impacts to the beach surface from heavy equipment was avoided. Native plants were installed at the site in winter 2010- 1011.

Project Status/Timeline
Project was constructed in summer 2010. Installation of native plants took place in winter 2010 – 2011. Project monitoring is ongoing.

Primary Project Contact
Eric Mickelson – Restoration Ecologist

Funding Sources
Skagit Marine Resources Committee
Northwest Straits Foundation

Project Partners
Northwest Straits Foundation
Skagit Marine Resources Committee

Johannessen and MacLennan. March’s Point Geomorphic Assessment and Drift Cell Prioritization. 2007. Coastal Geologic Services Inc.

Penttila, D. 2007. Marine Forage Fishes in Puget Sound. Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership Report No. 2007-03, Published by Seattle District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle, Washington.

Penttila, D. July 2011. Forage Fish Spawn Sample Surveys, July 2010- December 2011 on Skagit River System Cooperative’s East Fidalgo Bay Beach Restoration Site, Skagit Co., WA.

Mickelson, E. and A. McBride. West March’s Point Beach Nourishment Project: Post-Nourishment Beach Monitoring Report. November 2011. SRSC.