Moga Project Promises Years of Benefits

As luck would have it, Greg Moga, owner of a historic Snohomish valley farm, came to us. Moga is on the board of The Nature Conservancy and shortly after buying a 98-acre farm, he was referred to us by another Nature Conservancy member for tips on planting grasses that would attract birds and other wildlife.

The farm Moga purchased sits at a curve in the river and had been diked and farmed many years before. The new owners have already started an orchard, planted clover for pollinators and moved an old corn crib in from New England (photo below).

Snohomish Conservation District Habitat Specialist Cindy Dittbrenner knew the property would be an ideal site for rearing habitat for both Chinook and coho salmon with the re-connection of a side channel and removal of a road blockage. The project is mutually beneficial as the Moga’s will get: better access to the fields below the farmstead, prime wildlife viewing, and more flood storage during high flows. By the end of September, two long culverts will be installed, channels dug, dikes removed and the area seeded. This winter, crews will plant five acres of trees along the channels.

The Snohomish River is the second largest producer of Endangered Species Act-listed Chinook salmon in the Puget Sound. The Moga project is located just below the confluence of the Skykomish and Snoqualmie Rivers, south of the City of Snohomish, in what is known as the Confluence Reach of the Snohomish River. As such, it is critical spawning and rearing habitat for both the Snohomish-Skykomish and Snoqualmie populations of Chinook salmon.

In the early to mid-1930’s, much of this reach was diked (now the reach is 44% diked or armored) and the river has moved very little in the last seventy years. The Crabbs dike (now Moga) and Beck dike, in particular, had not been maintained and cut valuable side-channel habitat off from the river. 

Side channel habitat provides critical adult holding and juvenile rearing habitat for several species of salmon. Because much of the lower Snohomish River is modified, developed and diked, the reach where the Moga project is located represents the single best opportunity for restoration of this side channel for salmon.

The objective of the project is to construct a back-channel that will allow water from the Snohomish River to flow in and out of the Moga side channels during normal winter flows. The project will include:

  • Removal of two barrier roads crossing the side channel with 12 foot wide culverts.
  • Removal of a partial barrier foot crossing near the mouth of the channel.
  • Excavation of a series of channels downstream of the main crossing to connect the existing wetland ponds with the river.
  • Installation of large woody debris and gravel in this newly constructed series of channels to provide in-stream habitat conditions suitable for juvenile salmon rearing.
  • Creation of shade along the entire length of the newly created channel by planting five acres of native riparian forest.
  • Improvements to existing channel by controlling invasive plant species and planting native conifers in with existing vegetation.

The Moga project is the largest habitat project to-date for the Snohomish Conservation District and was mostly funded by the State Salmon Recovery Funding Board with match provided by the Washington State Conservation Commission and the landowner. Design and construction oversight is by Cardno with construction by McClung Construction. You can see more photos below or if you want to follow along with the project, go to:

By Lois Ruskell, Public Relations Coordinator