Model Restoration Project is Working for Salmon and for Farmers

We have great news: Our Fisher Slough tidal-marsh restoration is working as designed to produce more salmon, create more marshland and improve the drainage to neighboring farmlands in the Skagit Delta.

Why is this a big deal? As important as estuary and floodplain restoration is to the health of Puget Sound’s water, salmon and people, it is rare to be able to fully document project outcomes.

Aerial view of the Fisher Slough restoration project. Photo by Marlin Greene/One Earth Images.

For almost every restoration project, we (meaning the entire restoration community) can report how many acres were restored. It’s very rare for restoration managers to be able to monitor results in numbers of salmon produced and benefits to people.


Through a robust monitoring program starting in 2009, we have done just that at the Fisher Slough tidal-marsh restoration on the Skagit Delta.

In this project, we set out to build relationships between non-traditional partners working in conservation, agriculture and flood protection in the Skagit Delta. We sought to provide tangible outcomes: restored habitat for salmon, more storage area for floodwaters and updated drainage infrastructure needed for farming.

10 acres of wetlands turned into 56 acres

The restoration was completed in 2011, and we now have results from seven years of monitoring.

We monitored benefits to salmon as well as reduced flood risk to neighboring roads, farms and homes. A few highlights:

  • Five times more area is flooded by the tides after restoration, providing habitat for salmon.
  • There are 10 times as many juvenile salmon in Fisher Slough after restoration.
  • The restored area provides almost five times as much flood storage, reducing the risk of floods to neighbors.

Fish count in Fisher Slough, Skagit River, Puget Sound. Photo by Julie Morse.

The Fisher Slough project has since led to a partnership looking across the Skagit Delta to analyze where future projects to benefit fish, flooding and farms should be located. It also paved the way for the Floodplains By Design program that is restoring habitat, reducing flood risk, providing recreational access and supporting farming around the state

Setting back the south levee opened up new habitat for salmon

The lessons we learned at Fisher Slough were the basis for what we focus on now on a much larger scale — collaborative, multi-benefit efforts with tangible on-the-ground results in local communities.

Learn More About Our Floodplains Work