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Port's Blue Heron Slough restoring over 350 acres of salmon habitat

The Port of Everett and partner Wildlands are almost done restoring more than 350 acres of saltwater estuary habitat at its Blue Heron Slough project on Spencer Island. 

Blue Heron Slough, in the lower Snohomish River Estuary, is already home to deer, coyote, ducks, frogs, owls, cougars and its namesake, blue heron. 

Next year, experts expect salmon to quickly return to this newly restored estuary habitat located between Union and Steamboat sloughs. 

Spencer Island was cleared, diked and drained for agriculture around 1880. Most recently, Blue Heron Slough was the location of Biringer Farm, renowned for its strawberries.

The goal of the $20 million project is to restore the 353-acre slough near the mouth of the Snohomish River — currently drained and diked land — to its natural estuarine condition.

Port partner Wildlands and contractor Dungeness are developing a mosaic of channels, marshes, mudflats, and riparian areas, which will be reconnected to riverine and tidal influences by breaching the existing dike. 

The 2005 Snohomish River Basin Salmon Conservation Plan identifies the Blue Heron Slough as key to salmon recovery, which will greatly benefit our area orcas.

The project is designed to restore critical habitats for threatened species of salmon, steelhead and bull trout — it reconnects an off-channel rearing and refuge habitat for the fish. A total nine miles of channels will be restored.

Not only will Blue Heron Slough benefit salmon and other wildlife, but it provides other important benefits as well, including but not limited to water quality improvements through wetland filtration, reduced flooding by providing more space for water to be absorbed during flood conditions, and greenhouse gas carbon capture at a higher rate than forest lands — this will help build a more resilient community and ecosystem. 

Blue Heron Slough also doubles as a mitigation bank to expedite economic development in the area. 

Wildlands and Dungeness are on target to breach the agricultural dike in summer 2022, flooding the land so that salmon can take up residency there.

Who calls Blue Heron Slough home?

Since 2019, a number of species of wild animals and native plants have been reported at Blue Heron Slough. Here’s a snapshot of the restored ecosystem.

  • American killdeer
  • Great blue heron
  • Bald eagle
  • Gull
  • Barn owl
  • Mallard
  • Belted kingfisher
  • Nootka rose
  • Black twinberry
  • Northern shoveler
  • Columbian black-tailed deer
  • Osprey
  • Cormorant
  • Pacific tree frog
  • Cottontail rabbit
  • Red alder
  • Cougar
  • Red elderberry
  • Coyote
  • Red-tailed hawk
  • Douglas fir
  • Rough-legged hawk
  • Douglas spiraea
  • Salmonberry
  • Gadwall