Blocked more than 100 years by man-made dikes, the waters of Puget Sound returned to the Nisqually River estuary Wednesday, creating a watery landscape few if any people alive today have ever seen.
Five of the seven sloughs that braid their way through the river delta filled with water at high tide after decades as empty, muddy channels. The remaining two will be opened up by construction crews to tidal flows by the end of the week, said Jean Takekawa, refuge manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“I think it’s so special to see the tides moving in,” Takekawa said as she stood on a new, 10,000-foot-long dike, watching Shannon Slough glisten in the afternoon sun with water from the Nisqually Reach in South Puget Sound. “It’s hard to describe how ambitious and challenging this project has been.”
This week marks a milestone in a 12-year, $12 million effort to restore some 762 acres of estuary on the 3,000-acre Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Some 4 miles of exterior dike were removed this summer, one horizontal slice at a time. Last summer the new, exterior dike was built at the refuge to prepare for this summer’s dike removal.
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