By Mike Benbow
EVERETT — Snohomish County has a new public wetland and its creator has a nice award.
The Port of Everett, which formed a wetland between I-5 and Union Slough south of Marysville out of what had been a 19-acre field, has been selected as a winner of the American Association of Port Authorities’ 2001 Environmental Improvement Awards Competition.
The project, completed earlier this year, recently was opened to the public. It can be accessed off Highway 529 between Everett and Marysville from the turnoff to Biringer Farms.
To complete the wetland, intended as a home for juvenile salmon and other marine life, the port hired contractors to build a dike along I-5 north of Union Slough, carve channels in the field and breach 1,500 feet of an existing dike so that the field floods as the tide rises.
Volunteers, including a local girls’ soccer team, the Shooting Stars, helped plant some 100 fir trees donated by Weyerhaeuser Corp.
The new marsh is intended to make up for the loss of 9.4 acres of wetlands that were filled during work on a new container cargo terminal at the port. Twelve acres were set aside to make up for that project; the remainder will be part of a "wetlands bank" that the port can draw on for future projects.
"As Dennis Gregoire (former port planning director) mentioned many times, this strategy is a win-win-win for the fish, the port and the regulatory agencies involved," said Graham Anderson, port senior planner. "The fish get large contiguous areas added to the estuarine habitat, providing them good habitat to use before there is a loss of habitat elsewhere."
Port Commissioner Phil Bannon said the award underscores the port’s commitment to be a responsible steward of its property.
Years ago, when Bannon was the port’s director, the agency purchased some 300 acres of the Biringer Farm there with the idea of returning the area to its original state as marshland.
"At some point, our intention is to go in there and fully develop the site," said John Mohr, the current port director.
The idea is to use the area to make up for developments that affect wetlands on port property along the waterfront or elsewhere.
The port plans to install some benches in the area and an interpretive sign to explain its role in nurturing fish and wildlife.
"We definitely want the public to have access to the facility, but we want to keep it as simple as possible to keep the maximum environmental values out there," Mohr said.
The new wetland will be monitored by an environmental firm to document whether it’s working as intended, but Mohr said the early signs are good.
Hundreds of young salmon have been seen feeding in the area on their way to Puget Sound, as have shore birds and waterfowl.
You can call Herald Writer Mike Benbow at 425-339-3459
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