Meeting set to discuss Britt Slough restoration project

March 3, 2019
The historic path of Britt Slough is highlighted in red as seen on Google maps. The Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group is leading a project to connect the slough to the Skagit River by way of wetlands.

Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group will host a community meeting to discuss its salmon habitat restoration plans for Britt Slough in the Skagit River floodplain.

The local nonprofit is working with the state Department of Fish & Wildlife and the Skagit Conservation District on the project, which is aimed largely at restoring habitat for threatened chinook salmon, a primary food source for the region’s endangered Southern Resident orcas.

The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the office for Skagit County Dike District 3, 20890 Dike Road, in the Conway area, according to a Skagit Fisheries news release.

The meeting is an opportunity for area residents to learn about the project, the restoration work done so far along the south fork of the Skagit River and to ask questions and offer feedback.

The project, called the Skagit Forks-Britt Slough Restoration Project, will restore about 8 acres of wetlands in the river’s floodplain that is contained by levees on Fish & Wildlife property, according to project documents.

The restored wetlands will increase the space available to young chinook salmon on their way out to sea during the spring, supporting an additional 7,000 to 15,900 fish each year.

The project will include creating a 945-foot channel to reconnect Britt Slough with the wetlands, creating a channel where the wetlands could drain into the river and closing a channel built in the 1960s to bypass the wetlands.

The work will take place at Fish & Wildlife’s Skagit Forks property near the intersection of Hickox and Dike roads.

Before levees were built in the area during the 1960s, project documents say Britt Slough ran just southwest of Mount Vernon along Britt Road and connected with the Skagit River just before the river forks to enclose Fir Island.

With the levees in place, the wetlands around Britt Slough now only receive significant water — and therefore are only available to salmon — when the Skagit River is in flood stage.

That can trap fish as the river recedes after flooding, according to Skagit Fisheries.

Skagit Fisheries restoration ecologist Sue Madsen said the organization is applying this year for grant funding to complete the project. If that funding comes through, work could take place in 2020.

The project has previously received funding from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NOAA Fisheries, Shell Oil Co. and Sea World.