Representatives from environment organizations and government agencies are celebrating the transformation of the Bowman Bay beach at Deception Pass State Park, on the southwest side of Fidalgo Island, Washington.
“This has really transformed over the last year. It’s amazing,” Northwest Straits Foundation Executive Director Caroline Gibson said.
The Skagit County Marine Resources Committee partnered with the Northwest Straits Commission, Northwest Straits Foundation, Skagit Conservation District, and Washington State Parks to remove approximately 540 feet (1,600 tons) of armoring from the Bowman Bay shoreline.
Construction was completed in November 2015. This project helped restore natural sediment transport processes and improve approximately 0.6 acres of nearshore habitat for forage fish, juvenile salmon and bull trout. The restored resilience to the ecosystem also allows for lateral shifts in sea grass beds in response to sea level rise. In addition to the ecological benefits, removing this armoring improved access to the beach for kayakers and other park visitors.
Trained volunteers conducted pre-construction monitoring to collect baseline data and will continue to collect post-construction monitoring after construction for at least three years to assess habitat changes. The Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group (SFEG) developed and implemented the riparian planting plan of the upper beach area and hosted several volunteer planting parties.
Interpretive signage will be installed in the fall of 2016 to help educate the public about the value of nearshore habitat and benefits of removing hard shoreline armoring.
“It’s in my mind a whole different experience walking out here,” Eric Watilo, northwest region manager for State Parks, said while looking out at the water. “Before it was an abrupt rock edge. Now it’s more park-like.”
Still, the underlying purpose of the project is to benefit wildlife. “Riprap is a barrier for people, but it’s also a barrier for wildlife that live here. It’s a disconnect,” Northwest Straits Foundation Nearshore Program Manager Lisa Kaufman said.
Removing the boulders from the beach and adding plants along the shoreline is expected to help the forage fish and salmon in Bowman Bay. The plants provide habitat for insects, which young salmon eat before they are big enough to eat other fish, Kaufman said.
This project was funded in part by the Puget Sound Partnership and the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program with federal funding originating from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.