Agencies develop plan to restore 5,000 acres of Sound shoreline habitat

Public comments are being sought on a tentative proposal to restore more than 5,000 acres of central and northern Puget Sound shoreline habitat.

A 45-day comment period on the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project draft feasibility report and environmental impact statement will run through Nov. 24.

In addition, the proposal will be discussed at a public meeting from 5-8 p.m. Nov. 5, in the council chambers of Burlington City Hall, 833 South Spruce St.

The project is a joint effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Work on the proposed plan began in 2001, as the Army Corps and state agency worked to identify large-scale projects that could reverse human-caused degradation of the Puget Sound shoreline and nearshore environment, according to Theresa Mitchell, project manager for the department.

The project also includes several tribal, state, federal and non-governmental organizations.

Project participants evaluated more than 500 potential restoration sites, Mitchell said. The tentative proposal — one of three alternatives considered in the report — identifies 11 sites for restoration of natural habitat features that support many commercially, recreationally and culturally valuable species.

After Nov. 24, the Army Corps will review the comments and revise the draft statement before submitting it to Congress in the fall of 2015. Congress will decide whether to authorize the projects and appropriate funds to complete additional design and construction. Federal funding would represent 65 percent of the estimated $1.1 billion project costs. State, local and other non-federal sources would contribute the remaining 35 percent.

This effort is one of the largest habitat restoration projects undertaken in the United States. Under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Army Corps and state agency are required to evaluate the environmental, economic and social impacts of the alternatives being considered, including the preferred alternative.