March’s Point Nearshore Restoration

Rebuilding beaches for forage fish

March’s Point is located on the northeast opening to Fidalgo Bay in Skagit County near two oil refineries. After an oil spill at the site in 1991, a large volume of beach sand was removed as part of the clean-up. The beach continued to lose sand as it moved across the adjacent boat ramp. Surf smelt, a kind of forage fish, are an important food source for salmon, sea birds, and marine mammals. They need the right mix of sand and gravel on the beach to lay their eggs. In 2014 the Skagit County Marine Resources Committee (MRC) and the Northwest Straits Foundation worked to rebuild the beach and nearshore with the appropriate size and type of sand and gravel to restore the beach habitat for surf smelt to lay eggs. MRC volunteers, trained through the Salish Sea Stewards citizen scientist program, continue to monitor the beach and survey for surf smelt eggs. Soon after the beach restoration was completed, the surf smelt returned to lay their eggs. Property owners supported the restoration near their property. The owner’s son remembers surf smelt on the beach from his childhood 60 years ago.

What worked:

  • Adding 2,230 tons of sand and gravel restored the natural beach.
  • Sand stayed in place on the beach for years after the restoration.
  • Surf smelt returned to lay the eggs after the beach was restored.
  • Support of the property owner made the project a success.
  • The MRC Salish Sea Stewards training provided volunteers to find the surf smelt eggs.
  • Restoration demonstrated that fish can return years after an oil spill.

Benefits:

  • Continued monitoring by volunteers helps practitioners learn what works to restore forage fish habitat.
  • Surf smelt are part of the food chain that feeds salmon, sea birds, marine mammals, and other wildlife.
  • Habitat surrounded by commercial oil refineries can still support recovery of surf smelt.
  • Partnerships between non-profit organizations and landowners successfully restored a beach between two refineries, gained access to adjacent beaches for monitoring, and are discussing restoring more refinery beaches nearby.

Location:

  • Congressional District: 2
  • Legislative District: 40
  • WRIA: 3
  • County: Skagit

Partners:

  • Skagit County Marine Resources Committee
  • Northwest Straits Foundation

Project Funding:

  • Skagit Restoration Initiative
  • Department of Ecology Coastal Protection Fund
  • Alcoa Foundation

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