SAVING THE SKYKOMISH RIVER, FISH AND FARMS

 After years of work and planning, a massive effort is underway to restore the Skykomish River and its floodplains to its natural course while maintaining its vital resource for residents, farmers, and the effects on our treasured salmon.  Many different visions and competing interests have impacted this process.  Finally, there is a collaboration between all parties working towards finding a solution that works for everyone.  This is being accomplished by Community Floodplain Solutions engaging the community to offer the technical, human and financial reources to achieve these much needed outcomes.

“Improving public safety, restoring our river systems, and ensuring our natural resources are being protected are high priorities for Snohomish County and our many partners,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “The Skykomish River is vitally important to our economy and our quality of life. We are very grateful for the strong partnerships with organizations and agencies that share our commitment to saving lives, protecting natural resources, and preserving the well-being of our community.”

The residents have flooding concerns, the farmers have irrigation concerns and the Native American communities and environmental groups have concerns about the impacts on the river and salmon from development and farming runoff that affects the water quality.  Everyone agrees we need the Skykomish to be a clean, clear river that allows everyone in the community to enjoy it in their different way.

“Community Floodplain Solutions actively engages floodplain residents and charts a new path towards more sustainable land management along the Skykomish River,” adds Sam Low, Snohomish County council member. “This comprehensive program could greatly benefit our community by incorporating alternative solutions that are more cost-effective and balanced, providing more benefits to all.”

To that end, Snohomish County Public Works snohomishcountywa.gov/204/Public-Works  has received a $4.8 Million Grant from the Department of Ecology’s Floodplains by Design Program. The program, called Community Floodplain Solutions (CFS) – Sky Valley, snohomishcountywa.gov/5575/Sky-Valley-CFS-Project is a collaborative effort to reduce flood impacts for residents, keep local farms viable, and restore habitat for endangered salmon. CFS is a partnership between Snohomish County Public Works Surface Water Management (SWM) snohomishcountywa.gov/208/Surface-Water-Management , the Sustainable Lands Strategy (SLS) farmfishflood.org, and the Snohomish Conservation District snohomishcd.org/, among others.  SWM and partners will provide an additional $1.93 million in local and federal matching funds to the grant.

This all-encompassing project will:

  • Reduce flood-related risk to people and public infrastructure
  • Remove three fish passage barriers and culverts, improving access to 2.6 miles of stream habitat
  • Restore up to 30 acres of habitat along the Skykomish Riverbanks
  • Protect up to 200 acres of floodplain land for future restoration and long-term agriculture uses
  • Model, assess, and map river conditions for future projects
  • Complete design for an integrated floodway project and three agriculture resilience projects
  • Educate and learn from residents about living in a dynamic floodplain to better understand river migration risks

The CFS-Sky Valley project began in July 2019 and extends through June 2023. Due to the COVID-19 response, public engagement actions are postponed, which may cause some shifts in the project timeline.

Marcee Maylin has a degree in Editorial Journalism from the University of Washington and 30+ years media experience.