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Deer Lagoon Project Update & Alternative Analysis

What’s Going on With Deer Lagoon Restoration?

Wild Fish Conservancy continues to research the Whidbey Island - Deer Lagoon Estuarypossibility of restoration for Deer Lagoon near Admiralty Inlet. In 2010, the WFC began studying the possibility of restoring Deer Lagoon to its more natural state, in order to recover what was once a highly-productive coastal lagoon. A number of options were considered and modeled, ranging from the installation of a new tide gate to the removal of the two existing dikes to allow for more complete tidal movement and flushing throughout the western lobe of the lagoon.

The studies demonstrated that removal of the dikes would be in the best interest of the juvenile salmon and other species that depend on nearshore habitat. However, the studies also demonstrated that the dikes could not be removed unless a new setback levee is constructed to protect the homes on Shore Avenue. This setback levee would be built to the north of those homes, and would be constructed using modern methods and materials — unlike the existing dikes, which were built in the early 1900s. The levee would be designed to protect homes and septic systems against flooding.

The alternative analysis was completed in December 2010, and, in 2011, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife also assessed the alternatives and the feasibility of a new setback levee. The Department agreed that the removal of the existing dikes would be the best course of action for the environment, and conducted a very preliminary analysis of how the setback levee should be built.

Review the alternative analysis.

What Will Happen Next?

WFC will continue to pursue the lagoon restoration project, which will include more study and analysis of both the feasibility of dike removal and the construction of the new setback levee. In 2012 Micah Wait, project manager, intends to ask Island County Commissioners for their endorsement and approval of the next phase of study.

If they vote affirmatively, the Commissioners will endorse a comprehensive geotechnical assessment of Deer Lagoon. This assessment will include soil testing, a stability and settlement analysis, and the first phase of setback levee design. This geotechnical work would begin in late spring 2013 and be completed by the end of 2013.

If the assessment indicates that the setback levee could be constructed to deliver the level of protection needed for homes, WFC will hold a public meeting in 2013 to discuss those results and possible next steps. In addition to the studies already completed and the upcoming geotechnical assessment, an Environmental Impact Statement would need to be completed and permits obtained from a number of state and federal agencies before the restoration project could go forward.

Why Restoration at Deer Lagoon, and Who Owns It, Anyway?

75% of the salmon in Puget Sound pass by Whidbey Island on their way out to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, they need to feed and rear in shallow estuaries. The western lobe of Deer Lagoon could be restored to provide 450 acres of this crucial habitat. Over the years, this salt marsh habitat has been destroyed. What looks like a freshwater “lake” behind the two parallel dikes is really a brackish environment with very low oxygen levels that kills fish. Island County purchased Deer Lagoon from a private party using federal grant dollars a number of years ago. One of the rationales for the federal grant was that the County would provide for salmon habitat restoration in the lagoon. This project affords Island County with the opportunity to follow through on that commitment.

Want To Talk About Deer Lagoon Restoration?

Micah Wait, project manager, is happy to talk to, or meet with, anyone who wants more information about the feasibility of restoring Deer Lagoon. You can call Micah at 206/953-9305, or email him at micah@wildfishconservancy.org. In addition to individual conversations, Micah is available for “living room meetings” with lagoon neighbors, provided that someone is willing to host this event. You can also contact Margaret Norton-Arnold, who is assisting Micah with public outreach on this project: 206/269-0229, or margaret@na-company.com.

For more information, visit the Deer Lagoon Restoration Assessment project page.

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