Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve

The Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve, located in Fidalgo Bay just east of Anacortes in Skagit County, features expansive eelgrass beds and an array of saltwater marsh, beach, and tidal flat habitats. Adjacent to over four miles of shoreline, these nutrient-rich habitats are essential contributors to the reproductive, foraging, and rearing success for numerous fish and bird species.

About the Committee

The Fidalgo Bay Citizen Stewardship Committee formed to increase public participation in the Aquatic Reserve process and assist DNR’s Aquatic Reserve program in successfully implementing the Reserve’s management plan. To do this, the Committee conducts scientific monitoring projects, performs education and outreach activities, and keeps an eye out for actions in and around the Reserve that may impact the ecosystem.

Who we are: A citizen group whose mission is to conserve the unique habitats, plants, and animals of the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve through leadership in scientific monitoring, environmental literacy, citizen education, local stewardship, and cooperation with governmental and nongovernmental agencies.

Staff from RE Sources for Sustainable Communities and from DNR support the Committee’s work and provide organizational support for the individual projects.

Why we exist: The Citizen Stewardship Committee gives citizens a voice in the management process, provides them with the opportunity to work directly on the ground to ensure proper management of the Reserve, and helps keep stakeholders accountable for their actions.

How we are funded: We are funded by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) via the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Forage Fish Spawning Surveys

What: A survey to examine the timing, location, and density of forage fish spawning within the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve.

Why: The study aims to determine if and how forage fish are using beaches in the Reserves. This information is critical to predict the natural and/or human-induced impacts on Reserve beaches and to answer environmental questions posed by governmental agencies and interested groups.

How: Working with the Department of Natural Resources and their Puget Sound Corps members, volunteers are trained to sample the likely spawning zones along the Reserve’s beaches. The samples collected are then analyzed by DNR and the data are submitted to the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s database.

Intertidal Monitoring

What: A study to monitor the diversity, distribution, and abundance of intertidal species and the makeup of the intertidal shorelines and biota at the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve.

Why: The monitoring, over time, will provide baselines for detection of changes and determination whether these changes are due to natural variation or human activity, and if they are harmful, beneficial, or neutral. Acquired baseline information can be used for natural resource damage assessment, Reserve management, and protection of critical habitats, and protected species.

How: On low tide days during the summer months, citizens scientists visit different intertidal areas along the Fidalgo Bay shoreline and, using a variety of sampling methods, record basic information about the diversity, distribution, and abundance of intertidal species and on the variety of notable beach characteristics.

The Committee works to educate the community about the Reserve, its importance, and the need to work together to protect it. To do this the Committee has taken on several projects:

The development of educational materials including a brochure, a display, and factsheets. These are available for viewing and download on the resources page.

The development of a presentation that has been given to community groups and classrooms. This presentation is available on request. Slide show is available for viewing and to download on the resources page.

Partnering with local organizations including the Coastal Volunteer Partnership- Padilla Bay, Friends of Skagit Beaches and Skagit Marine Resources (MRC) Committee to host and participate in community events including: educational lectures, the Fidalgo Bay Shoreline Academy, held each May; Fidalgo Bay Day and National Estuaries Day, held collaboratively in late August.

Do you have other education ideas, are interested in hosting a presentation, or have graphic design or writing skills? Join us and help spread the word about the importance of Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve.

The Committee works to track activities that may impact the Reserve’s shoreline and habitat, such as local land use laws or proposed development as well as to provide recommendations to the appropriate government agencies. There are three main categories of regulatory tools the Committee looks to comment on: land use management programs, development construction permits, and guiding environmental laws.

Land Use Management Programs establish a roadmap for how cities and counties grow and change over time. This includes how shoreline and important environmental areas are protected, as well as the long-term vision for the community character, economic viability, and natural resource lands. These programs typically have several review periods built into the process so that the public can iteratively review and provide comment while the plans are being developed as well as when they are in their final draft form. Opportunities for involvement include providing public testimony at planning commission meetings, attending committee meetings, providing formal public testimony and participating in public comment periods.

Construction Permits are required for proposed projects that will impact a waterbody, including shoreline or nearshore areas. These permits often have a public review process. Depending on the permit, this happens either once the permitting agency receives all the material for the proposed project, or just prior to making the final decision. Notification of these public comment periods varies from posting on websites, to mailings to adjacent property owners, to posting in newspapers.

Guiding Environmental Laws establish guidance and rules around how and if to evaluate the longer-term implications of a proposed action. These typically include a public review process but they are generally part of the final decision-making process. For example, the decision around key habitat for rockfish is published in the Federal Register for public comment.

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