WSDOT building fish habitat in Snohomish County

VIDEO: Work to help iconic Northwest salmon, orcas

Near Steamboat Slough between Everett and Marysville, crews are putting the finishing touches on a project meant to restore nature.

"This is an area that used to be an estuary," said Ruth Park, an environmental manager with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Long ago, the estuary was filled in as bridges were built.

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Now, workers have finished digging out a 12-acre site to create a new wetland habitat.

With islands, plants and downed trees, it will give salmon a place to rest when traveling between fresh water and salt water.

"The estuaries are kind of their nursery, where they grow, they eat, they get ready for that trip out to the ocean," Park said.

The work is intended to help chinook salmon, which are food for endangered orcas.

"In this watershed, something like 80% of this habitat is gone," Park said.

The state is doing the work that helps fish to offset future work that will hurt them;: the expansion of a freeway interchange at Interstate 5 and State Route 529.

Washington is expected to spend billions of dollars in the years ahead building or improving culverts for fish after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state must cover the cost.

In Snohomish County, there are several restored estuaries, including a much larger project by the Tulalip Tribes.

State officials plan to breach the dike on the new estuary Oct. 4, letting in the water.

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