State funding and federal policy changes propel Duckabush Estuary habitat restoration forward


Photo courtesy of the Washington Department of Ecology

With Governor Inslee’s signing of the capital budget this spring, a plan to restore the Duckabush Estuary in Jefferson County is becoming more of a reality.

For almost a century, a 10-foot-high wall of fill dirt — measuring about 30,000 cubic yards, or enough to fill about nine Olympic-sized swimming pools — has supported Highway 101 and stretched across the Duckabush Estuary, substantially blocking the estuary’s natural connection to nearby tidelands and confining the river to two defined channels.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group (HCSEG), is leading the Duckabush Estuary Restoration Project, an effort to elevate the highway and restore the estuary’s natural connection to nearby tidelands. A recent Earth Economics report estimated that the area’s restoration would protect and generate up to $250 million in benefits over the 100-year life of the estuary’s bridge. Reference our recent blog post for more information.

The Department received $14 million in the recently signed state capital budget. With a recent change in federal policy, the Corps will now share the cost of highway construction with the state, meaning the state’s required contribution to the project may be half of what was originally anticipated. WDFW and partners worked with congressional leaders to include language in the Water Resources Development Act of 2022, allowing the Corps to broaden its definition of what actions constitute a habitat restoration project, and, therefore, increase the federal government’s financial contribution toward the project.

With previously secured funding from the state Legislature and the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the state is close to securing all the required state funding for project construction.

WDFW and project sponsors are working to secure the remaining federal construction funding through the upcoming federal budget process.

WDFW is planning to hold a public open house in Brinnon later in 2023 to provide updates on the project. Final design is anticipated to be completed in 2024. Pending federal funding, construction would begin in 2025 and is estimated to take about four years.

Restoration projects like this will likely change how the public and tribes access beaches and shellfish beds. Project partners continue to work together to take actions that will maintain and enhance shellfish harvest access throughout Hood Canal.

The Duckabush Estuary habitat restoration project is an example of projects underway through the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project. The program has invested over $20 million to study Puget Sound’s 2,500 miles of shoreline and identify opportunities for large-scale habitat restoration.

The project is in the Duckabush Unit of the WDFW-managed North Olympic Wildlife Area.

More information about the Duckabush Estuary project is available on WDFW’s website.



The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.