State’s habitat project near Stanwood raises farmers’ ire

STANWOOD — Farmers and conservationists are split over a plan to flood farmland that Norwegian homesteaders claimed from the Stillaguamish River delta more than a century ago.

For now, the effort to breach levees near Stanwood is on hold while the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife seeks permits from Snohomish County.

“We are out of construction season at this point and we’ll hope to start up next summer if everything lines up correctly,” said Lora Leschner, a regional manager with Fish and Wildlife.

The project involves about 150 acres, with roughly half of it to be restored as tide-influenced estuary with habitat for salmon and waterfowl, said Tom Rowe, a division manager with the Snohomish County planning department. To do that, the state would remove an existing dike, which it says is failing, and build a new, smaller one.

“There’s no infrastructure that could be impacted, but we’re asking them to balance” agriculture and natural habitat, Rowe said.

The state originally applied for the habitat project using a streamlined process that bypassed local permits. The Snohomish County Farm Bureau appealed that approach to the state Hydraulic Appeals Board in August. The board ruled in its favor last month, forcing the state to get county permits.

“We don’t disagree with the purpose, but they cannot be allowed to do that at the expense of designated farmland,” said Ed Moats, a public affairs consultant with the county farm bureau.

The Snohomish County Farm Bureau would like the state to ask for a change in the land’s agricultural designation during the county’s yearly land-use docket.

The habitat conversion has ignited similar passions to a larger project on Smith Island between Everett and Marysville. While the Smith Island project could force a horse stable to close or relocate, there are no people or businesses that would have to move from Leque Island.

A plaque on the property says that in 1876, farmers, including Norwegian immigrant N.P. Leque and his wife, Anna, diked several hundred acres in the Stillaguamish River delta by “hand and horse.” The Leques started a homestead there and their descendants continued to farm it until the mid-20th century. In 1994, a family member sold it to the state.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465,

More in Local News

Snohomish man, 63, missing from home since Monday

He left without his keys, wallet and phone, saying something about going to “the river.”

Firefighters come to the rescue and give mom new stroller

Donations to the Good Neighbor Program covered the $143.20 cost.

Case unresolved: The noose at an Edmonds construction site

Though two were fired over comments about it, police were unable to determine who put it there.

To get drug money, Lynnwood man says he cut 911 wires

Those wires happened to be the ones used by 911 dispatchers, but emergency services weren’t affected.

February trial set for suspect in deadly Marysville shooting

There had been questions about Wayne Alpert’s mental health.

Fatal car crash reported on Highway 92 near Lake Stevens

The 3 p.m. accident and investigation stopped traffic in both directions near Machias Road.

Motorcyclist killed in crash had high level of THC

A motorcyclist had more than eight times the legal limit… Continue reading

Investigation recommends girl shot by officers face charges

The teen is accused of assaulting her boyfriend and the responding police officers.

Signs show the rates for using the express toll lanes for traffic headed southbound on Interstate 405, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in Bothell, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee announced plans Tuesday to try to decrease congestion on I-405 in answer to commuter complaints that the new express lane tolling system is making traffic worse. The governor said he would not be shutting down the tolling system as some people have called for. But the state transportation department is making plans to add new northbound general purpose lanes to ease some of the congestion and also plan to make it easier to move into and out of the express lanes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Higher tolls could improve traffic speed in I-405 toll lanes

A report recommends lifting on the maximum toll and charging only by segment.

Most Read