BOWMAN BAY — As Bowman Bay glittered under the sun Monday, massive orange machinery dug, dumped and distributed dirt along the shoreline.
Trimaxx Construction Inc. of Sedro-Woolley is in the midst of a Northwest Straits Foundation beach restoration project, where about 1,300 cubic yards of rocks are being removed to improve fish habitat and open up the area to more recreation.
The beach at Bowman Bay is part of Deception Pass State Park. It is on the south end of Fidalgo Island.
For Deception Pass State Park Manager Jack Hartt, the project is something he dreamed up 40 years ago, and at a place he has known since he was 4 years old.
“This is near and dear to my heart,” he said.
Hartt’s family moved to Skagit County from Seattle in 1958. His father, with the University of Washington fisheries department, introduced him early on to what was then the Bowman Bay Fish Hatchery.
Though the hatchery has been gone since about 1970, rocks that were placed along the beach to protect the hatchery remained behind.
Hart said those rocks could prevent forage fish from using the area to spawn and also hinder public recreation — including his own when he was a little boy.
When Hartt was a University of Washington student, he focused one chapter of his senior thesis on park management on the rock wall at Bowman Bay.
When a 20-something Hartt looked at the beach, he envisioned it without the rocks that were placed there to protect the hatchery. Now he is excited to see the project to remove the rocks underway.
“My ideas and thoughts from 40 years ago are becoming a reality,” he said while walking along the project site Monday.
The beach at Bowman Bay closed to the public Oct. 26 to make way for heavy machinery. The road to the beach, as well as the Bowman Bay Trail and the Rosario to Bowman Bay Trail are closed during the work.
“Little people and big trucks don’t mix,” Hartt said.
The work is moving along more quickly than expected, however, which could mean an early reopening.
After four days on the job, the crew had moved about 99 percent of the rock that was the major target of the project, Northwest Straits Foundation Nearshore Program Manager Lisa Kaufman said.
After the rock is removed, about 950 cubic yards of new beach sediment will be added, she said.
To both sides of the project area, the beach is littered with driftwood, and dune grasses flourish above the high-tide line. That’s exactly what Northwest Straits expects the rest of the beach to look like following the restoration work, Kaufman said.
The primary goal of the project is to make more natural shoreline habitat available for forage fish and other marine life.
Pre-project surveys found no signs of spawning forage fish such as surf smelt and sand lance, but the fish have been seen in the bay.
“While we haven’t had any evidence of forage fish spawning on the beach ... they are finding their way here and foraging in the bay,” Kaufman said.
Those fish are low on the food chain, supporting other species found in Bowman Bay, including chinook salmon, she said.
“If we could get forage fish spawning here that would be great,” Kaufman said. “We just want to make sure we’re providing a natural system.”
After the project, Northwest Straits will monitor the beach, checking to see if forage fish start to use the site for spawning.
In the meantime, Northwest Straits is working on plans for a similar, although larger, project at Shannon Point.
“There’s a lot more rock there than there is here,” Kaufman said.
Removing several tons of rock there, too, will improve shoreline habitat.