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CONWAY — To prevent flooding of fields near Wiley Slough on the south end of Fir Island, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife proposes building a pump house to move water to Freshwater Slough on the south side of the dikes as needed.

Fish and Wildlife owns some of the surrounding property, which is part of the agency’s Skagit Wildlife Area used for public recreation including waterfowl and pheasant hunting, fishing, dog training, bird watching, walking and jogging.

Adjacent agricultural fields are privately owned.

Fish and Wildlife purchased the property in 1948 for pheasant hunting and growing waterfowl forage, according to a State Environmental Policy Act checklist prepared in January.

Management has since expanded to include estuary restoration for Chinook salmon habitat, backed by tribal treaty rights.

In 2008 and 2009, a $4.2 million dike was built to protect neighboring farmers’ lands and part of the property was flooded to expand Wiley Slough to cover 157 acres for salmon habitat.  

Since, the agency says its 100 acres of grains have faced more flooding. Neighboring farm owners say the same.

The property lies in the Skagit River’s 100-year floodplain, according to the SEPA checklist. Installing a pump house to move water from one slough to the other requires a number of permits from Skagit County, a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers permit and a Fish and Wildlife-authorized in-water project permit.

The work is not expected to be limited to a fish window because it will be completed behind tide gates, but will be scheduled with consideration of the tides, according to Fish and Wildlife.

It includes excavating a well in the bank of the slough and building a pump house above it, as well as building a walkway to the building and a 20-by-20 foot gravel pad next to it. Two new power lines will be installed.

Pipes will run from the building through the dikes to Freshwater Slough and tide gates will be placed at the outflow.

The county is accepting public comment until 4:30 p.m. Jan. 20. Comments must be submitted in writing and reference permit no. PL13-0500 for a Substantial Development and Conditional Use Permit, permit no. PL13-0440 for a Critical Areas Variance and permit no. PL13-0441 for an Administrative Special Use Permit.

They can be submitted online at skagitcounty.net/pdscomments or by mail to Leah Forbes, Skagit County Planning and Development Services 1800 Continental Place, Mount Vernon, WA 98273.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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