Heavy trucks are scheduled to begin moving dirt and materials next week as part of a two-year project to set back the existing mile-long dike to improve habitat for fish and wildlife, said Belinda Rotton, Skagit Wildlife Area Manager.
The popular birding area, purchased by the department as a snow-goose reserve in 1995, will be closed for construction through Oct. 7 of this year and from mid-May until mid-October in 2016, Rotton said.
“We apologize for the summer closures, but bird-watching and heavy construction just don’t mix,” Rotton said. “We plan to reopen the reserve by the time the snow geese return in October this year and next.”
The snow-goose reserve, part of WDFW’s 16,700 acre Skagit Wildlife Area, is located on the south end of Fir Island, about three miles from Conway.
Jenna Friebel, WDFW project manager, said the department’s primary goal this summer is to build a new, mile-long dike, set back from the existing dike and shoreline by approximately 5,500 feet.
Next summer, work crews will remove the old dike, restoring natural tidal action and marshlands that serve as rearing areas for juvenile salmon and other fish and wildlife species on the reserve, Friebel said.
“Besides benefitting native salmon populations, the project will help to protect nearby agricultural lands against flooding and preserve snow goose forage areas,” Friebel said.
Rotton said ground-breaking on the $16.4 million project follows six years of planning and development, involving discussions with area landowners as well as state, federal, tribal and local agencies. Federal agencies provided 15 percent of the project construction costs.