leque island

A levee along the Stillaguamish River on Leque Island will be breached to create fish habitat.

The state Department of Fish & Wildlife is preparing to begin the second phase of restoration work this summer at its Leque Island property near Stanwood.

The island sits between Skagit Bay and Port Susan along a side channel of the Stillaguamish River.

Fish & Wildlife is working on a restoration project to reopen estuary habitat, where freshwater and saltwater mix.

The first phase of the work was completed in the fall of 2017.

That work included filling agricultural ditches and creating new channels for water to snake onto the island.

The final phase will involve removing dikes on the island, reopening it to the tides of Port Susan and Skagit Bay, said Fish & Wildlife Restoration Projects Coordinator Loren Brokaw.

It will also involve removing Eide Road, building a 0.7-mile berm to protect Stanwood, and building a new parking area and trails.

During the work, which Brokaw said will likely take place from July to October, the island will be closed to the public.

Fish & Wildlife manages about 440 acres on Leque Island as part of the Skagit Wildlife Area. The property, accessible from Highway 532, is popular for walking, bird watching and waterfowl hunting.

Bald eagles and great blue herons, as well as smaller birds common to the region, can be seen on the island.

The project is being done on 250 acres on the southern portion of the island, where saltwater marsh provided important habitat for young salmon and other wildlife before dikes were built in the early 1900s to allow for farming, according to Fish & Wildlife.

The agency expects the restoration project to allow new saltwater marsh habitat to develop, similar to what is being seen at the Fir Island Farm restoration site where levees were removed in 2016. That will restore habitat on Leque Island for fish, as well as improve habitat for birds.

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

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