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Swinomish Channel Watch

Channel Update

December 23, 2014

 The Seattle Engineer District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently completed the latest round of maintenance dredging in the Swinomish Channel.

American Construction Co. Inc. was awarded a contract for $820,750 to complete the FY14 Swinomish Channel Maintenance Dredging project. This year’s dredging was confined to the south end of the channel, where the accumulation of sediment is most prevalent.

A 2014 economic study commissioned by the Port of Skagit found that marine businesses and boaters on the channel generated sales of approximately $86.2 million in business revenue during 2013. Direct employment on the channel totals 499 jobs with an income of $21 million, for an average annual income of nearly $42,000. The combined maritime activity on the channel generates total employment of 1,048 jobs with income of $49.4 million in Washington State, the study found.

 

Aug. 21, 2014

The Seattle Engineer District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has informed the Port of Skagit that the next round of maintenance dredging in the Swinomish Channel will begin in late September.

On July 22, 2014, the Corps issued a contract to American Construction Co. Inc. for $820,750, to complete the FY14 Swinomish Channel Maintenance Dredging project. American also was the contractor for the last round of dredging in 2012-13.

According to the Corps, this year’s dredging will be confined to the south end of the channel, where the accumulation of sediment is most prevalent. The project is expected to take 35 to 40 working days to complete and should be finished around Christmas.

 

Jan. 30, 2014

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed a new survey of sedimentation in the Swinomish Channel last month. The survey found that though shoaling has occurred in several spots at the south end of the channel since dredging was completed a year ago, there is room in the channel to steer around the shallow spots. The channel remains in good condition north of Hole-in-the-Wall.

Coastal Geologic Services, working on a Port of Skagit contract, used the Corps survey data to map the condition of the channel bottom. The three survey maps start at the south end of the channel and proceed northward to the bend at Hole-in-the Wall, south of Shelter Bay. Shallowest areas are shown in dark blue and purple.

Hard copies of the maps are available for viewing at the La Conner Marina office. To download the survey maps, click the titles below.

MAP ONE

MAP TWO

MAP THREE

 

Dec. 27, 2013

Work has begun on a Skagit County-wide effort to dredge the Swinomish Channel again in 2015. Due to heavy sedimentation, the Swinomish Channel must be dredged at least every three years to maintain navigable depths for commercial and recreational vessels.

The Port of Skagit is an active participant in the effort to ensure the channel remains a navigable waterway. Our partners include Skagit County, the Town of La Conner, the Port of Anacortes, the Shelter Bay Community, Dunlap Towing, and the Swinomish and Upper Skagit tribes.

Washington’s congressional delegation has played a key role in past efforts to secure federal funding to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the channel as an ongoing maintenance activity. Currently, the partnership is urging the Washington delegation to work again on our behalf to see that this vital work continues within the normal dredging cycle.

 

July 2, 2013

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its Swinomish Channel After Dredge Condition survey, giving boaters a detailed look at the channel depths following the dredging project that was completed in January. American Construction Co. Inc., of Tacoma, removed nearly 220,000 cubic yards of materials from the channel bottom after dredging began on Sept. 19 of last year. The work brought the depth of the channel to at least minus-12 feet MLLW in all except a few spots.

The 12 survey maps start at the south end of the channel and proceed northward to the end of the channel off March Point, north of the Highway 20 bridge. Hard copies of the maps are available for viewing at the La Conner Marina office.

To download the survey maps, click the titles below:

MAP ONE

MAP TWO 

MAP THREE                  

MAP FOUR

MAP FIVE

MAP SIX

MAP SEVEN

MAP EIGHT

MAP NINE

MAP TEN

MAP ELEVEN

MAP TWELVE

 

Jan. 3, 2013

The contractor dredging the Swinomish Channel is nearing completion of the job, John Pell, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, reported today.

American Construction Co. Inc., of Tacoma, has removed nearly 220,000 cubic yards of materials from the channel bottom since dredging began on Sept. 19 of last year. The work is expected to finish on Jan. 12 or 13, Pell said. That means the project will be completed well within the so-called “fish window,” which closes Feb. 15.

The dredge Mukilteo was working at shoaling areas just north of La Conner today. From there, the barge will work its way south past downtown La Conner and finish at the spot known as “Hole in the Wall” next week.

Once the dredging is completed, the Corps will begin work on a post-dredge survey and will publish full charts of the channel after that, Pell said.

 

Oct. 3, 2012:

Dredging of the Swinomish Navigation Channel started Sept. 19, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A ceremony to mark the start of the dredging project took place Sept. 18, in the Port of Skagit’s Peninsula Building at the La Conner Marina. Speakers included U.S. Rep. Rick Larson, WA-02, Col. Bruce Estok, District Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others.

American Construction Co. Inc., of Tacoma, won the contract for the job with a low bid of $1,884,000. The contract calls for the contractor to perform maintenance clamshell dredging of approximately 200,000 cubic yards of sediment from the Swinomish Navigation Channel. Most of the dredged material will be disposed at the Rosario PSDDA open-water disposal site. The job is expected to be completed in February 2013.

The channel, first dredged more than a century ago, is overdue for dredging. Due to heavy sedimentation, the channel must be dredged at least every three years to maintain navigable depths for commercial and recreational vessels. It is authorized to a depth of -12 feet MLLW. The last partial dredging took place in 2008.

Without dredging, the Swinomish Channel would become impassable for virtually all vessels, which could cause the loss of more than 500 jobs in the Skagit Valley, according to an economic study of the issue commissioned by the Port of Skagit. The Port, which owns and operates the La Conner Marina, has led efforts to keep the Swinomish Channel open since dedicated federal funding for dredging the channel was eliminated in the mid-1990s. 

 

February 2012:

Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, announced in February that the Swinomish Channel in Skagit County will be fully dredged in 2012 after receiving $2.277 million in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funds. Larsen spoke to U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy and stressed his support for funding of the project.

“This funding is a major boost for Western Skagit County, which depends on the Swinomish Channel as an economic driver,” Larsen said. “The channel is overdue for maintenance, but this substantial investment will make sure it is fully dredged this year. I told Assistant Secretary Darcy that the community strongly supports the project and I am pleased the Army Corps has recognized the value of this investment.”

The Port of Skagit Board of Commissioners subsequently voted to create a permanent fund devoted to maintaining the Swinomish Channel as a navigable waterway. Initially, the port will apportion $400,000 that had been designated for channel dredging in the 2012 capital budget to the new Swinomish Channel Maintenance Fund.

Last fall, when federal funding was still in question, the port commissioners committed to pay a $400,000 share of the dredging cost, with the remainder of the cost to be obtained from federal and other local sources. The money in the port’s new fund is now available to put toward future maintenance needs of the channel.

Patsy Martin, executive director of the Port of Skagit, pointed out that though this year’s dredging by the Corps will address current sedimentation problems in the channel, the waterway must be dredged every three years in order to maintain it at the authorized depth of -12 feet MLLW. And there is no guarantee that federal funding will be available the next time the channel needs dredging.

 

 August 10, 2011

The Port of Skagit is actively engaged in a two-stage effort to ensure the Swinomish Channel in Skagit County, WA, remains a navigable waterway. Short-term, the port is working to secure funding for 2012 maintenance dredging. Long-term, the port is trying to secure permanent funding for channel maintenance in cooperation with the Port of Anacortes, the Town of La Conner and the Swinomish and Upper Skagit tribes.

The channel was last dredged in 2008. Since then, the port has been working diligently to acquire federal funding while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pursues permitting for the next session of dredging. Unfortunately, changes in federal dredging policies and the elimination of earmarks in Congress have hindered those efforts, and now time is running out.

 A sedimentation study covering 2004-2008 found that without dredging, the channel depth will reach -2 feet MLLW in the south end by 2019. This would render the Swinomish Channel impassable for virtually all vessels. But we already are hearing reports of boats running aground in the channel. And a recent study by the staff of the La Conner Marina found that without dredging nearly 200 boats currently moored there will be unable to exit the south end of the channel by 2014, when the MLLW reaches -4 feet. An estimated 521 jobs are directly dependent on keeping this waterway operational as well, according to a 2008 economic impact study. In addition, overnight moorage on the guest docks at the La Conner Marina generates an estimated $1 million per year in tourist spending locally.

The following are facts that the Port of Skagit considers significant in the consideration of future dredging schedules for the Swinomish Channel.

1. The Swinomish Channel, first dredged approximately a century ago, extends through former sloughs and portions of the Skagit and Samish River delta deposits.

 2. Due to heavy sedimentation, the channel must be dredged at least every three years to maintain navigable depths for commercial and recreational vessels. It is authorized to a depth of -12 feet MLLW.

3. A sedimentation study covering 2004-2008 found that without dredging, the channel depth will reach -2 feet MLLW by 2015 at the north end and the same depth in the south end by 2019. This would render the Swinomish Channel impassable for virtually all vessels.

 4. Due to safety and comfort issues, the Swinomish Channel is the preferred route for boaters from the central and south Puget Sound to reach destinations to the north, primarily in the San Juan Islands and British Columbia.

 5. An estimated 1,260 moorage slips and 25 marine-related businesses are located in or near La Conner on the Swinomish Channel. An impassable Swinomish Channel would render these facilities useless.

 6. Marine businesses and boaters on the channel generate sales of approximately $92.6 million in business revenue annually. This commerce would die without boat traffic on the channel.

 7. Direct employment on the channel totals 521 jobs with an income of $25.8 million, for an average annual income of $49,000. The combined maritime activity on the channel generates total employment of 1,045 jobs with income of $50.3 million in Washington State.

 8. Members of the Swinomish and Upper Skagit tribes use the channel to safely and economically move boats between their usual and accustomed subsistence fishing grounds located to the north (Samish Bay) and the south (Skagit Bay). The “usual and accustomed” ground means all those areas where the Tribal Community and its members and its predecessor tribes or bands and their members customarily fished before, at the time of, and subsequent to, the signing of the Treaty of Point Elliott. In addition, both tribes have future plans that rely on keeping the channel open.

 9. The loss of boat traffic on the channel would severely reduce property values in La Conner and parts of Skagit County.

 10. Barge traffic through the channel is safer, more efficient and has less impact on the environment than roadway or railway hauling. Studies show that moving one ton of cargo by barge reduces carbon emissions by 73 percent and fuel consumption by 59 percent, compared to trucking it.

 Sources:

1. Swinomish Channel Sedimentation Study, prepared for the Port of Skagit by Coastal Geologic Service, January 2010

2. Swinomish Channel Dredging Economic Impact Assessment, prepared for the Port of Skagit by BST Associates, January 2010

3. Environmental Advantage of Inland Barge Transportation study, U.S. Dept of Transportation Maritime Administration, 1994.