Leque Island, South Pass Stillaguamish River

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Leque Island, South Pass Stillaguamish River

by | Nov 12, 2019

Leque Island is located at the mouth of the Stillaguamish River on South Pass that separates Camano Island from the mainland, about 0.6 miles (1 km) from the community of Stanwood, Washington. Leque Island was originally a tidal saltmarsh but was diked by early settlers for agricultural purposes.

The nutrient-rich soil on Leque Island was deposited as a lahar, a violent type of mudflow, that flowed down the river valley from a Glacier Peak eruption about 12,500 years ago. Since then repeated flooding by the Stillaguamish River continues to deposit nutrients and sediment. The land was occupied by indigenous peoples for millennia before the arrival of white settlers in the early to mid-1800s. In the 1870s, a Norwegian settler named O.B. Iverson partnered with others to purchase Leque Island for the purpose of farming. They diked and drained the island, then grew oats and hay, and pastured cattle. These families farmed the land of Leque Island for several generations, eventually selling the parcels off to other farmers. Since 1974, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has purchased 325 acres (132 ha) of the island and contracted farmers to plant grains for wintering waterfowl. More recently Leque Island had suffered repeated dike failures which have prompted restoration efforts.

In 2007, the Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area was established, encompassing the entire Port Susan Bay including the shoreline and Leque Island. The stewardship is managed by a number of environmental groups and works towards improving the health of the waters around the island. The changes in the estuaries and marshes on Leque Island, carried out to promote agriculture, such as diking and draining were identified as one of the threats to the marine ecosystem. Beginning in 2019, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and partners initiated the Leque Island Estuary Restoration Project. The project will remove over 2.4 miles (3.8 km) of a levee and restore 250 acres (101 ha) of tidal marsh, and important habitat for juvenile Chinook salmon and shorebirds. Read more here and here. Explore more of Leque Island here:

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