City, Army Corps may partner on marsh restoration

By Paul Archipley | Jan 30, 2014

At one time, the Edmonds Marsh was the site of a dairy; at another, Edmonds residents enjoyed playing golf there.

But go back far enough, before settlers began altering the landscape, and Edmonds Marsh was just that – a swamp, a bog, a wetland that was sanctuary to all manner of wildlife, from Chinook salmon to Great Blue Herons.

Environmentalists are leading efforts to return the marsh to its pristine state. And now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may soon be helping in that effort.

The Corps, known for its expertise in building dams, irrigation systems and similar projects, is increasingly focusing on restorative work as well.

Edmonds Public Works Director Phil Williams has written the Corps a letter of intent, beginning a formal process to partner with them for marsh restoration.

Williams said the City already has two marsh-related, grant-funded studies underway – one on urban flooding, the other on Willow Creek restoration.

“At some point, when those studies are completed, there will be a list of projects that will certainly require outside funding,” Williams said.

With costs expected to be in the millions, a partnership with the Corps would be huge, he said.

“If it happens, you could get up to 65 percent of the cost from the federal government,” Williams said.

Still, he noted, “65 percent is not 100 percent, so we’d end up having to find the other piece.”

The City would no doubt search for other partners, perhaps the state ferry system or the Port of Edmonds, he said.

Williams presented his idea to approach the Corps to Mayor Dave Earling.

“I said, ‘Why wouldn’t we do it?’” Earling said. He noted that working with an agency like the Corps would mean it would have “considerable influence that could affect a local entity” like Edmonds.

But the letter of intent is just a first step, with a possible agreement on a partnership still over the horizon.

“It doesn’t obligate anybody,” Williams said.

Council President Diane Buckshnis, the City’s representative to a regional watershed restoration committee, said she was excited about the possibilities.

The committee – the Water Resource Inventory Area 8 committee – focuses in particular on watershed restoration for salmon recovery in the Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed.

Buckshnis said her participation on the committee is helping put the Edmonds Marsh on the radar screen.

“The Corps of Engineers decided it would be interesting to look at,” she said. “It’s one of the only fresh water marshes along the (Puget Sound) waterfront.”

She said “daylighting” Willow Creek would go a long way toward restoring the marsh for salmon. Now, they have to swim through a pipe from the Sound to reach the marsh, a system that is hardly conducive to healthy salmon propagation.

“The Corps for so long did things like build dams, which helped development, but it wasn’t necessarily good for the environment,” Buckshnis said.

“But now they’re realizing you don’t really need a dam, and you can the same results when returning it to its natural state.

“I’m just excited about it.”


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