More than 2,000 feet of shoreline, 33 acres of forest and wetlands, and 26 acres of beach and tidelands on South Whidbey will be protected in part due to a $1 million federal grant awarded this month.
The property has been a high priority for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust which has long wanted to protect and restore the old Waterman Mill property along Possession Sound, according to Pat Powell, Land Trust executive director.
Powell said the eroding cliffs on the property, prone to major and minor landslides, could have posed a safety issue if developed.
“The bluff will be allowed to erode naturally,” Powell said. “You want that.”
Abutting a property already owned by the Land Trust, the property will then connect, except for a small piece of private property, to more than 10,000 feet of public tidelands, reaching all the way to Sandy Point near Langley, according to a Land Trust press release.
The largely vegetative shoreline is filled with natural ecosystems that can help keep the bluff as stable as possible, Powell said. A county road, now used as a walking and biking trail, will be retained for that purpose.
The property is not purchased yet but the deal should be complete sometime this summer, according to Powell.
Other project highlights include noxious weed removal and interpretive signs outlining shoreline process and its history as the historic Waterman Mill.
Debra Waterman, one of the landowners, recalled that “wood chips from our family’s sawmill in Langley were trucked to the property and funneled down the bluffs to barges” that took the chips to the mainland, according to the news release.
“No longer in operation, the property now provides rich habitat for wildlife and a place for public enjoyment,” the news release said.
Danielle Rideout, land protection specialist, said the property has earned a good bit of national attention as one of only 25 properties to receive the highly-competitive grant nationally.
“It’s one of the top coastal projects in the country,” Rideout said.
This is due in part to the feeder fish habitat that lines the shoreline for the migrant salmon population, Rideout said.
Under the terms of the project, Rideout said, the Land Trust will partner with the Department of Natural Resources to remove a creosote-soaked bulkhead that is leeching contaminants into Puget Sound. The associated pier was removed under the same DNR program several years ago.
“It is the financial generosity of you, our members, that supports our professional staff who submitted grants totaling $7.8 million in 2014, of which $3.4 million has already been awarded, including this most recent success,” the news release said.
The $1 million grant was awarded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program and is a partnership with the Washington Department of Ecology, according to the Land Trust.