Daffodils bloom west of a pocket estuary site on the southeast side of March’s Point
Daffodils bloom west of a pocket estuary site on the southeast side of March Point

They were headed down to check the status of the 1,488 trees that PSR employees, their families, partners from Skagit Conservation District, Ducks Unlimited, Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group and the community planted to enhance a pocket estuary on a dreary fall day in 2019.

Dozens of PSR employees and their families worked to uplift a pocket estuary on the southeast side of Puget Sound Refinery property by planting 1,488 trees in October 2019
Dozens of PSR employees and their families worked to uplift a pocket estuary on the southeast side of Puget Sound Refinery property by planting 1,488 trees in October 2019.

Planting trees

Planting 1,488 trees might seem daunting but as the saying goes, “many hands make light work” and that was the case during this Orca Recovery Day effort when we were able to get all those trees in the ground in just a couple hours.

The tree planting was just the first step in this important project to provide habitat uplift to the pocket estuary. In 2020 large woody debris was added to the site to provide additional natural habitat and protection to juvenile salmon from avian predators. Improving the environment in this area will help everything from shorebirds to fish species – including the aforementioned juvenile salmon – which are a critical component of the food chain that assist with Puget Sound’s Orca recovery efforts.

This pocket estuary lies southeast of Puget Sound Refinery where Padilla Bay flows under March’s Point Road
This pocket estuary lies southeast of Puget Sound Refinery where Padilla Bay flows under March Point Road.

What is a pocket estuary?

Estuarine habitat is a transition zone between land, freshwater and saltwater and a pocket estuary is a small sub-estuary within a larger one. In this case, the pocket estuary on the southeast side of March Point lies behind March’s Point Road where Padilla Bay flows in through two large culverts at high tide, meeting up with tide channels and small amounts of freshwater as the land climbs toward Puget Sound Refinery.

Bill Blake from Skagit Conservation District inspects a tree planted in 2019 as part of PSR’s pocket estuary uplift work for Orca Recovery Days
Bill Blake from Skagit Conservation District inspects a tree planted in 2019 as part of PSR’s pocket estuary uplift work for Orca Recovery Days.

Continuing our stewardship

Bill Blake inspected the entire area during the visit. Some trees that looked to the untrained eye like they didn’t survived winter, were actually very much alive as he scraped a small section of bark showing the green lying beneath.

He pointed out the Great Blue Heron footprints in the mud, a sure sign that the pocket estuary, and its juvenile salmon were doing well, because the birds wouldn’t be there if there weren’t things to eat.

They may still look small 18+ months after planting but the trees and this restoration area are doing well and will keep growing up and out to help create additional wildlife habitat in the years to come. Bill Blake and the PSR environmental team will continue to monitor as the area moves through its restoration process.