For years, dikes have held back the salty waters at Long Beach, Washington, to create pastureland for horses and cattle. Now the tide has turned, and the dikes are coming down to create high quality intertidal wetlands.
John McHugh is tearing down a 60-year-old dike on his property and restoring eight acres of wetlands for commercial purposes. He is creating a wetland bank where developers, including state agencies, can buy credits for mitigation purposes.
Previously, developers had to provide on-site mitigation, which was rarely successful at replacing the value and function of the lost wetlands. By consolidating restoration efforts on a single, larger tract of land, rather than attempting numerous, smaller projects, McHugh will be able to create an intertidal salt marsh of the highest quality. The new marsh will provide habitat for fish, other aquatic life, and waterfowl, as well as act effectively as a natural filter.
This is the first privately owned wetland mitigation bank in Washington. It is funded in part by the Shorebank Pacific Enterprise Group, a nonprofit environmental development organization, which supports the project because it is both "pro-development and pro-restoration."
With the first project looking profitable, there is a high probability that other private interests will become involved in restoring wetlands in the state. McHugh is already working on plans to restore 60 more acres of diked tidelands.