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,

Talk to us

More in Local News

Snohomish County Councilmember Nate Nehring, left, speaks alongside Councilmember Jared Mead during the Building Bridges Summit on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, at Western Washington University Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
County Council members launch bipartisan ‘Building Bridges’ nonprofit

Jared Mead, a Democrat, and Nate Nehring, a Republican, hosted an event attended by 100 people this week in Everett.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After 40 days retired, Everett ex-police chief hired to mayor’s office

Everett’s longtime police chief, Dan Templeman, retired Oct. 31. He’s set to start a new role as senior executive director Monday.

Lead climbers head up their respective routes at Vertical World North on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Beginner’s ascent: A newcomer’s guide to indoor climbing

Indoor climbing gyms in and around Snohomish County offer thrills without winter chills.

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
Providence Swedish tightens COVID, mask policy

Citing a rise in respiratory illness, local hospitals and clinics will require masks for care.

Chestnut mushrooms grow in a fruiting tent on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at Black Forest Mushrooms in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Fungi town: Downtown Everett home to new indoor gourmet mushroom farm

Black Forest Mushrooms will grow up to 20,000 pounds of tasty mushrooms each month. Its storefront opens Saturday at 2110 Hewitt Ave.

Outside of Angel of the Winds Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Police arrest Angel of the Winds arena worker accused of stabbing boss

The man allegedly walked up to his employer and demanded a raise, before stabbing him in the stomach, witnesses said.

The town post office in Index, Washington on Wedesday, Nov. 29, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Index, smallest town in Snohomish County, is No. 1 in voter turnout

Index has beaten the Snohomish County ballot return rate in each of the last 10 years. Snohomish County leaders have a few theories as to why.

Founder and Executive Director Pa Ousman Joof, alongside Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell, right, prepares to cut the ribbon during the grand opening of the Washington West African Center on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Born out of struggle, West African Center flourishes in Lynnwood

African music filled the room Saturday at 19203 36th Ave. West, for the grand opening of the nonprofit’s new state headquarters.

Darrington Elementary School fourth grader Brayden Parris, 9, fills up his cup with chocolate milk from one of the schools new milk dispenser during lunch on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023 in Darrington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Darrington school reduces lunchroom waste with new milk dispensers

Milk cartons generally aren’t accepted by recycling centers in Snohomish County. Dispensers could be a solution. And they save milk too.

Pedestrian struck and killed on Everett Avenue

Police responded to the incident at the intersection of Everett and Virginia avenues to find one man dead.

Shayne Baker appears in court during a sentencing hearing Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Baker sentenced to 93 years for Everett double murder

Shayne Baker was convicted in the murders of Anthony Jolly and Anthony Burnett. He has another sentencing for a third murder Tuesday.

A person sits and looks out at Mt. Index in Index, Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Near Mt. Index, Forterra secures key piece in conservation puzzle

The nonprofit has been acquiring land in the region for decades. Now the project is complete, with funding from the county.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.