Marysville Globe: Rep. Larsen visits Qwuloolt Estuary

Feb 15, 2012


February 21, 2012

MARYSVILLE — U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, took the time on Monday, Feb. 13, to visit the site of one of the Puget Sound and Adjacent Waters Restoration Projects that his support helped make possible, right in south Marysville.

The Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration Project in Marysville will be sharing $2 million in funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the Seahurst Beach Restoration Project in Burien.

In the weeks prior to his visit, Larsen had spoken with Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, to emphasize the importance of the Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration Project, as well as the degree of the community’s continued commitment to it. Larsen had then contacted Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring to inform him of the good news personally.

“The fact that this is only one of two such Army Corps of Engineers projects within the state shows how important it really is,” Larsen said.

Larsen met with a number of representatives of the city of Marysville and the Tulalip Tribes to discuss the progress of the Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration Project, which Tulalip Tribal Board Vice Chair Glen Gobin recalled had started in 1996, the same year that he began his first term on the Tulalip Tribal Board of Directors.

Gobin and Nehring were but the first two of many to thank Larsen for his role in securing funding for the 360-acre project, between the city of Marysville’s wastewater treatment plant and its residential neighborhoods on the hill on Sunnyside Boulevard.

While Gobin cited the importance of restoring the tidal marsh that existed prior to farming, which will aid in regional salmon recovery by restoring habitat for juvenile salmon, his contention that the restoration work itself will bring jobs to the area dovetailed with Nehring’s belief that the restored estuary will generate recreational interest.

Kurt Nelson, project manager with the Tulalip Tribes, credited the city’s Shoreline Master Program with making the Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration Project possible, and joined Larsen in pointing out that the local community had already generated the $2 million required to qualify for matching funds from the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The Corps can spend up to 65 percent of the project’s cost,” said Nelson, who also echoed Larsen’s observation that having this funding included in the Army Corps of Engineers’ work plan for fiscal year 2012 means that its construction work will commence this year. “The Corps has reallocated money that it had rescinded last year.”

Nelson further explained that 80 percent of the existing estuary is no longer accessible to salmon, and that even making it more accessible by 10 percent could make a significant difference. To that end, this project will see the estuary’s levies breached and set back, its channels restored and native flora replanted, which should also increase tidal habitats for waterfowl and shorebirds. Levies that were built in 1915 will be replaced and raised from 12-13 feet in elevation to 15 feet in elevation, to compensate for global warming. The estuary’s main outlet will also be shifted to counteract the erosion that 3D modeling has indicated could occur near the wastewater treatment plant.

“We’re sealing three of the four tidal gates,” Nelson said. “The salmon only have a window of access through the tidal gates if the tide is low enough. I want them to have much freer access.”

“This is considered one of the top salmon recovery sites in the state,” city of Marysville Chief Administrative Officer Gloria Hirashima said.

“It’s the second largest restoration in the Puget Sound,” said Josh Meidav, restoration ecologist for the Tulalip Tribes. “Its fishery benefit is higher than Nisqually.”

Larsen acknowledged that the Seahurst Beach Restoration Project in Burien would receive at least some portion of the $2 million in funding, but promised he would continue to speak on behalf of the Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration Project.