Mystery road explained along I-5 in Marysville
Drivers have been asking me for months about what looks like a road being built alongside I-5 between Everett and Marysville.
97.3 KIRO FM Radio listener Jerry Russell wrote, “I’m having trouble figuring out the new road that’s going in north of Everett on the eastside of the freeway before Marysville. What are they doing and where is it going to connect?”
For months, trucks have been dumping sand in a very straight and deliberate line next to the northbound lanes of the freeway on Spencer Island. It looks like a mile-long road from and to nowhere.
The Washington State Department of Transportation says it’s not a state project. I thought it might be Marysville’s. Wrong again. It turns out it is a Port of Everett project.
“It is not a road,” said Erik Gerking, Port of Everett’s Director of Environmental Programs. “It is a protective dike for the Port of Everett’s 350 acre salmon restoration project that that is now under construction.”
The dike looks just like a road because the contractor is using it as an access road during construction. The dike will eventually extend from Union Slough to Steamboat Slough, protecting I-5 when the existing dikes to the east are breached.
“In four different locations, the existing agricultural dikes will be breached, and the waters from the Snohomish River estuary will come into that land during the different tidal cycles,” Gerking said.
This will create hundreds of acres of new salmon habitat.
“It will be a mosaic of channels and new plantings of native-type plants,” he said. “It will be pretty exciting for the commuters driving north on I-5 to watch this unfold over the next couple of years.”
Gerking hopes to breach the dams in 2021, 28 years after the Port of Everett bought the land.
If you’re wondering why the Port of Everett is restoring salmon habitat nearly three miles away from its operations, it is buying and banking environmental credits for future use, essentially doing environmental mitigation now so it won’t have to when it wants to build something in the future. Gerking said it will cut the environmental process and costs on future projects significantly.
“Things that can take a year, two years or even more will be streamlined and cut down to maybe a matter of months or a year,” he said. “The environmental benefit of these mitigation banks is huge.”
For example, say the Port wants to build a new dock in 2023 and the environmental review requires 10 acres of mitigation. The Port could show off this 350 acres of restoration and show it has already taken care of the mitigation.