For the first time in 135 years, ocean water flowed onto Leque Island in Washington this week when Ducks Unlimited and partners breached an island dike bordering the island as a part of Phase II of the Leque Island Restoration project, a significant milestone that took 15 years to complete.
Much of Leque Island was historically a saltwater marsh that provided important habitat for many species, including juvenile salmon, shorebirds, and waterfowl. Residents built dikes in the early 1900s around the perimeter of the island to create farmland. By the 1970s, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife began purchasing land on the island to become part of the Skagit Wildlife Area, which today is now a popular spot for waterfowl and waterfowling.
Ducks Unlimited’s phase I’s original work at Leque included excavating many miles of new channels, filling ditches, and building small mounds, which created habitat complexity, mute waves, and direct water draining from the site away from neighbors. Construction crews are still finishing the final touches on the project, and once done, the area will be available to hunters.
All of Ducks Unlimited‘s projects rely on partnerships, and the restoration of Leque Island is no exception. DU is extremely appreciative of our partnership with WDFW, and of the support that has been given to the project over the years from numerous partners including NOAA-National Marine Fisheries Service, The Nature Conservancy, Salmon Recovery Funding Board, Shell Oil Company, and private donors.
Ducks Unlimited engineer Steve Liske has worked on the Leque Island project for a decade. He spent Monday camped out at the site waiting for it to flood.
Although he likened waiting for high tide to watching paint dry, he could see his work come to fruition as water filled each of the six engineered channels.
“It’s amazing,” he said.
Moving forward, the project site will take care of itself. All that’s left to do is monitor its natural transition and track how wildlife changes.
-The Daily Herald (Everett, Wash)