Restoring Padilla Bay’s Vital Tidal Marsh

The Takeaway: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allowed the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to acquire and safeguard 74.5 acres of vital tidal marshland in Washington, aiding in the larger endeavor to revive up to 105 acres of the area’s tidal marshes.

Aerial view of land in a bay with a black line around it.
Aerial view of the project properties acquired in 2023. A county road crosses the properties near the eastern edge. Private farmland is on the southern border.

The Washington State Department of Ecology achieved a significant milestone in September 2023, acquiring 74.5 acres of vital tidal marsh and farmland from the Skagit Land Trust on Samish Island within Padilla Bay, Washington. This $2,332,854 award from NOAA allows the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to permanently protect and restore these acres of former and current tidal marsh, and is part of a broader effort to restore up to 105 acres of tidal marsh to Padilla Bay.

This project is supported by the National Estuarine Research Reserve System Habitat Protection and Restoration awards, funded under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This initiative marks the beginning of comprehensive efforts to fortify communities against climate change and extreme weather events, and is a testament to collectively managing and preserving our coastal areas.

Aerial view of land with water winding through it.
Conceptual restoration drawing developed by Skagit County in 2014. This was one of only four county-wide projects chosen for development of conceptual restoration design.

To grasp the significance of this project, it’s important to recognize the shrinking size of tidal marshes in the area. Once spanning 7,000 acres, the tidal marsh and tidal swamp surrounding Padilla Bay have shrunk dramatically, with less than 200 acres remaining. This acquisition and restoration effort play a pivotal role in building climate resilience, especially by mitigating flooding vulnerabilities along the main road and utilities that the Samish Island community depends on.

The Padilla Bay Reserve’s agenda for this project covers a wide range, including safety assessments for roads and dikes, managing public access, addressing coastal flooding and sea level rise, and preventing saltwater intrusion, in addition to expanding the reserve’s boundaries. The project’s proximity to a revered former Samish Indian Nation village restores cultural ties and publicly acknowledges ongoing tribal stewardship. The expansion of reserve boundaries enabled by this project opens doors for increased research, education, and recreation focused on marshlands, highlighting the reserve’s dedication to environmental appreciation and understanding. (2024)

Partners: NOAA, Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Washington State Department of Ecology, Skagit Land Trust

Federal Funding: $2,332,854