Crescent Harbor dike breach

State funds are helping bring fish back to Crescent Harbor marshland.

The tidal reconnection project for the approximately 200 acres of marshland would have been completed years ago, but was sidelined by the Iraq conflict, said Steve Hinton, Skagit River System Cooperative director of habitat restoration.

“We’re working with the Navy to pull the pieces back together again,” he said. “Together we are trying to get the job done.”

The cooperative, a natural resource management agency working on behalf of the Sauk-Suiattle and Swinomish Indian communities, will restore the connection by breaching two dikes, thereby increasing tidal flow at the largest open-barrier salt marsh on Whidbey Island.

The breaches will restore tidal channels to provide fish access.

“There is currently no evidence of fish use there,” Hinton said. “We’re excited about the prospects. This is one of the biggest habitat gains that we could realize on Whidbey Island in a single project.”

The $700,000 project will be partially funded by the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program.

The Navy Seabees initially constructed a bridge in anticipation of breaching the dikes, but the help was called away for duty and deployed to Iraq.

Before the co-op and Navy begin their work, the city of Oak Harbor will fortify the area around the Seaplane Base lagoon system. The city is also installing an additional siphon line this year.

“Oak Harbor will do their piece this fall,” Hinton said.

The dike breaching will likely not occur until 2009, although the director of habitat restoration would like to see some elements constructed next year.

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