River Delta Restoration

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This page is a synthesis page to organize information about the Restoration of Puget Sound River Deltas. There are individual pages for River Deltas river delta sites. This page instead is intended to describe the shifting regional body of work groups, documents, and efforts that represent the incremental restoration of the larger River Delta sites. The focus is on local partnership, and evolution of funding systems. State and federal funding has strongly supported projects, with joint funding from multiple programs the norm.

Early Activity

Initial restoration efforts were opportunistic.

Urban Delta Restoration

The First Wave of Broad-scale Delta Restoration: Quilcene, Skokomish and Nisqually

  • Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project was a large scale planning project which ran from 2001 until 2015 with the authorization of a feasibility report by the US Congress. It provided a sequence of analysis which described the relevance and loss of large river delta wetlands in Puget Sound, and established "process-based restoration" as a regional goal.
  • The Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program was first authorized in the 2006 state capital budget, in response to work by PSNERP, and created a large state resource that could strategically provide multi-million dollar awards to support delta restoration. This funding source began supporting the evaluation of delta restoration effectiveness, and was critical to Nisqually, Skokomish and following efforts.
  • Meanwhile Quilcene Delta restoration was quietly advancing by the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group under a series of projects. While smaller and less researched than Nisqually or Skokomish, the Quilcene restoration was part of a leading edge of large scale dike setbacks.
  • Skokomish Restoration 2005-2017
  • Nisqually Delta restoration remains the single largest restoration action in Puget Sound, and was significant because it was a $15-20M project, funded by federal stimulus spending during the economic collapse of 2008-09 (along with the Elwha dam removals). It was the first "large scale" project, and inspired development of

Shifting Tools and Tactics

  • Inspired in part by the Nisqually Refuge Restoration the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration large capital projects program, which brought large blocks of state capital funding to bear on river delta projects, reinforcing ESRP as a funder of substantive estuary projects. Before ESRP and PSAR, only federal USACE Continuing Authority Programs provided these levels of funding.
  • Wiley Slough Restoration in the Skagit Delta restored flooding, but local farmers claimed that modification of drainage systems caused damages to crops. A culvert failed due to design and construction problems, and shoaling in the delta obstructed drainage pathways. This ongoing conflict refocused attention on the tensions between the operations of agriculture, restoration of tidal flooding, and the cultural divides between fish and farm communities.
  • The Skagit Tidegate Fish Initiative was a pivotal regulatory agreement negotiated by NOAA and several parties around trade offs between continued operation of tidegates and recovery of delta rearing Chinook salmon. NOAA agreed to not pursue a claim of "adverse modification of critical habitat under ESA as long as recovery projects continued to be advanced in the system. A credit trading system was developed to track the agreement.
  • Skagit Drainage and Fish Initiative, not unlike Skagit TFI, the DFI followed a regulatory conflict over maintenance of drainage ditches with fish access. A shared set of specifications and best management practices have
  • Estuary Vital Sign was adopted by the Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council in ##
  • Cereghino 2015 is a report that attempts to assess
  • Fisher Slough Restoration was a relatively expensive project per acre, but pioneered multiple benefit work, by upgrading agricultural drainage systems, providing flood control benefits, and working closely with the local farming community.
  • Stillaguamish

Restoration of the Lower Snohomish Delta

The Challenge of Massive Scale Estuary Restoration: Whidbey Basin

Whidbey Basin Deltas account for 60% of historical vegetated tidal wetlands (Simenstad et al 2011). These systems also form the foundations of remaining Puget Sound Agricultural Production, as well as the core populations of Puget Sound salmonids, including two species listed under the Endangered Species Act.