The state Department of Fish & Wildlife is seeking applicants for an advisory group on a habitat restoration project being considered on the south fork of the Skagit River.

The project could restore tidal influence to all or part of the 268 acres of the Skagit Wildlife Area’s Island Unit, according to a news release.

The Island Unit, comprised of two islands on the south fork, is accessible only by boat. It is typically accessed from a boat launch at the end of Wylie Road on Fir Island.

The Skagit Wildlife Area is a patchwork of 16 properties in Skagit, Snohomish and San Juan counties that are owned and managed by Fish & Wildlife for habitat and recreation. Most, like Island Unit, are along the lower Skagit River and along Skagit Bay.

At the Island Unit, Fish & Wildlife has primarily farmed the land since the 1950s to provide winter forage for waterfowl in an effort to support waterfowl hunting.

Now, the agency is considering restoring more tidal influence to the property due to an anticipated rise in sea level, aging tide gates and the state’s priority for restoring salmon habitat.

Restoring a mixing of freshwater and saltwater would create estuary habitat, which is listed as a priority for threatened chinook salmon in the Skagit Chinook Recovery Plan adopted in 2005.

That has led to Fish & Wildlife completing other estuary restoration work in the Skagit River delta in recent years, including at the nearby Fir Island Farms Unit.

At the Island Unit, Fish & Wildlife will consider options ranging from no restoration to complete restoration. It will evaluate the options based on state requirements and community input, according to the release.

The Island Unit Advisory Group will provide feedback to the agency as it considers its options, according to the release.

Fish & Wildlife is looking for diverse representation, including those interested in waterfowl hunting, outdoor recreation, agriculture, conservation and salmon recovery.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. Aug. 19.

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

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