Chief of Policy and Communications
Innovative Partnership Funds Port of Everett’s Blue Heron Slough Conservation Bank; Key Project for Salmon Habitat
Everett, Wash. – The Port of Everett has reached a momentous and comprehensive agreement with the Port Gardner Bay Trustees to invest in and restore 338 acres of salmon habitat on a 353-acre site north of Everett.
The Port’s agreement, memorialized under a formal Consent Decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, is now out for a 30-day public review. The Port Gardner Bay Trustees is comprised of the Tulalip Tribes, Suquamish Tribe, U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Washington State Department of Ecology. The agreement represents a comprehensive settlement for natural resources damage liability from the years of historic industry on Everett’s waterfront.
“The Port, together with our restoration partner Wildlands, pursued an innovative and groundbreaking approach to settling natural resource damages on Port Gardner Bay in a way that provides immediate and significant environmental benefits by ensuring funding for the construction of the Port’s Blue Heron Slough Conservation Bank project,” said Erik Gerking, the Port of Everett’s Director of Environmental Programs. “The Blue Heron Slough project will benefit various threatened species, including the Chinook salmon, which is the primary food source of the Southern Resident Killer Whale (Orca).”
The Blue Heron Slough project is located in the lower Snohomish River Estuary, near the mouth of the Snohomish River, immediately north of the City of Everett on the east side of I-5. The 353-acre site is located on land that historically was part of an extensive estuary complex that was supported by daily tidal flooding from Possession Sound and intermittent flooding from the Snohomish River. In the 1800s, the area was cleared, diked, and drained for agriculture.
“This groundbreaking achievement is a win-win for the environment and local communities,” said Jim Pendowski, Toxics Cleanup Program Manager for the Washington Department of Ecology. “Restoring and protecting 353 acres of critical tidal habitats will help salmon thrive and help the communities that rely on healthy fisheries.”
The ecological goal for Blue Heron Slough is to restore this 353-acre complex by creating a mosaic of channels, marsh, mud flat, and riparian habitats, which will be reconnected to riverine and tidal influences by breaching the existing dike in four locations. The project’s restored habitats, including marsh, mud flat, riparian, and channel habitats, will assist in the recovery of the Puget Sound Chinook salmon and bull trout. The site was identified as one of the key locations for salmon recovery in the 2005 Snohomish River Basin Salmon Conservation Plan. The Port and its restoration partner Wildlands, one of the top restoration providers in the nation, are currently in the process of entitling wetland mitigation credits on the site.
“The project demonstrates that environmental mitigation projects are a key tool in restoring habitat for fish and wildlife in Puget Sound.” said Mark Heintz COO of Wildlands.
The settlement with the Trustees will include approximately 70 acres which will be debited from the 338-acres of restored habitat on the project. The remaining portions of the conservation bank will be used for off-setting environmental impacts of Port and other third-party projects, such as economic development, transportation, maintenance and other types of projects. Conservation banks are a model for creating large-scale restoration projects that can move the needle on environmental restoration and the recovery of threatened species.