Meadowdale Beach and Estuary Restoration

Meadowdale Beach and Estuary Restoration

The Meadowdale Beach and Estuary Restoration Project, completed by Snohomish County Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), restored the estuary of Lunds Gulch Creek by replacing an undersized culvert through the railroad embankment along the Puget Sound shoreline. The project benefits include restored estuary habitat for multiple salmon and trout species, including ESA-listed Chinook salmon, improved public safety, year-round beach access that is ADA-accessible, and reduced flooding.

Project Overview

View of the restored embayment upstream of the railroad crossing

The Meadowdale Beach and Estuary Restoration Project replaced 128 linear feet of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s rock armored railroad embankment, which supports two main tracks, and the associated 6-foot wide box culvert, with a five-span 128-foot long railroad bridge and new railroad fencing to address public safety and restore shoreline processes associated with Puget Sound. 

Prior to restoration, the 6-foot wide culvert was used to convey the creek flow in a concrete channel with a narrow ledge for park visitors to access the beach. The narrow culvert was too small to convey the water and sediment during especially high flow events so the park would flood and sediment would be deposited outside of the channel rather than carried out to the beach. 

View of the restored embayment upstream of the railroad crossing
View of the pre-restoration narrow culvert for creek and ledge for park users to access the beach

As a result, the culvert was considered undersized because its small size impaired natural stream and shoreline processes which caused flooding and degraded estuary habitats. In addition, small size of the culvert resulted in faster water velocities moving through it. The high velocity flows through the culvert would be too fast for adult and juvenile salmon to swim upstream, thereby creating a partial barrier to fish passage. The undersized pre-restoration culvert dated back many decades to when fish passage and the stream functions were less of a priority and less was known in general about the importance of independent coastal streams and estuaries like Lunds Gulch Creek.

In addition to widening the opening through the railroad embankment to restore an estuary closer in size to historic conditions, the project included the excavation of a large estuary upstream of the railroad crossing. The 1.3-acre restored estuary provides productive rearing habitats for young salmon. Notably, many ESA-listed Chinook salmon outmigrating in large rivers on their way to the ocean, stay close to the shoreline of Puget Sound and occupy the estuaries and lower segments of small streams like Lunds Gulch Creek. See this website’s section with Related Documents for links to some of the scientific papers on this topic. The restored estuary also provides habitat for other salmon and trout species who spawn and rear in Lunds Gulch Creek, including coho salmon, chum salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat trout. In addition, some of the other fish who reside in the nearshore habitats of Puget Sound may also use the restored estuary at times.

View of the pre-restoration narrow culvert for creek and ledge for park users to access the beach
Illustrative Site Plan for the restoration

The restored estuary is also designed to adjust and expand the saltwater habitats as sea level rise associated with climate change occurs over time. A portion of the estuary is expected to remain largely freshwater during the initial years following construction through groundwater seepage into the area. Then as sea level rises, more saltwater is expected in the estuary and the area will gradually become saltier and support more salt-tolerant vegetation.

The restoration also included habitat and stream enhancement upstream of the estuary. Added recreational amenities in addition to the improved beach access include a second footbridge over the creek to provide a viewing platform of fish migration. Additional recreation components include a new restroom, improved ADA parking, a foot-wash, and picnic and bench viewpoints of the beach, estuary and Lund’s Gulch Creek.

Project Significance

The Meadowdale Beach and Estuary Restoration project is regionally significant for its role in Chinook salmon recovery and Puget Sound shoreline restoration. The restoration at Meadowdale Beach Park was a high priority action identified in the Salmon Recovery Plan of the Lake Washington, Cedar/Sammamish watershed (also identified as Water Resource Inventory Area [WRIA] 8). The benefits to Chinook salmon through increased survival are also anticipated to extend to Southern Resident Orca Whales who rely on Chinook salmon as their main prey resource.

The project is the first Puget Sound shoreline restoration constructed which included enlarging the stream crossing under the railroad tracks along the shoreline. The installation of wide railroad bridges to replace the undersized culverts was critical to DCNR achieving its vision to convert park lawn areas to high functioning estuarine habitat to benefit salmon. The cooperation of Burlington Northern Railway (BNSF) was integral to the project being possible. The project represents a win-win through its multiple benefits to salmon restoration, beach access for park visitors, improved safely along the railroad, and enhanced park amenities and recreational experiences.

Before

After

Aerial before/after photos of restored embayment (note railroad bridge not installed at time of photo)

Project Cost and Funding

  • Estimated total construction cost: $15M
  • Total grants received: $6,704,078
    • Washington Wildlife Recreation Program (WWRP) - Water Access Grant - $604,078
    • Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account (ALEA) Grant - $500,000
    • Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) Grant - $800,000
    • Estuary Salmon and Restoration Program Grant - $1,000,000
    • Federal Rail Administration Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety Improvement (FRA/CRISI) Grant - $3,500,000
    • National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration Coastal and Marine Habitat Restoration Grant - $300,000
  • County (Parks and Recreation (REET)/Surface Water Management/Councilmatic Bonds) - $8.046M

Monitoring

For information and technical documentation related to the monitoring efforts of this project, view the Restoration Monitoring Page.

Visit the Park!

  • Snohomish County Parks and Recreation maintains a website describing the features and amenities of Meadowdale Beach Park. The website link is: https://snohomishcountywa.gov/Facilities/Facility/Details/Meadowdale-Beach-Park-56
  • The park is located at 6026 156th Ave SW in Edmonds, Washington.
  • The park includes a gated access gate for people with disabilities. Access must be coordinated in advance using a website or application available at the parks’ website link provided above.

Contacts

For questions about the park or the restoration project, please contact Rachel Dotson or Rob Marchand of the Snohomish County Parks and Recreation Department

Rachel Dotson
Park Planning Supervisor
rachel.dotson@snoco.org
425-388-6610

Rob Marchand
Senior Park Planner
rob.marchand@snoco.org
425-388-6632

For questions about the restoration monitoring, please contact Elisa Dawson of the Snohomish County Surface Water Management and Snohomish County Marine Resources Committee.

Elisa Dawson
Senior Planner – Marine Resources
elisa.dawson@snoco.org
425-388-6466

Meadowdale Beach and Estuary Restoration