Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary

In the late 1990s, Snohomish County began the development of a wetland mitigation bank with the help of the Department of Ecology, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Before Snohomish County, which owns and operates Paine Field, could impact several small wetlands on airport property for runway safety projects, it needed to create new wetlands. The 50-acre Narbeck Wetland site, and the 13-acre Swanson Wetland site located at the south end of Paine Field, were the result. Creating new wetlands in advance of impacting other wetlands is called “mitigation banking.”

OpeningNarbeck Wetland Sanctuary was dedicated and opened on July 31, 1999 as a passive recreation and environmental education public park.

In April, 2008, regulatory agencies determined two properties - the Swanson Wetland Mitigation Bank and the Narbeck Wetland Mitigation Bank - fully met all environmental performance standards and the mitigation credits were made available for use.

In September 2008, Snohomish County received top honors from the Washington State Department of Ecology for its approved wetland mitigation banks, the first in the state to receive full local, state and federal accreditation.

Bill Lewallen, the county’s airport deputy director, also was honored by Ecology for his leadership in completing the wetland-mitigation process during the past 10 years.

OverheadSpecifically, Ecology awarded the county and Lewallen its Environmental Excellence Award, which is reserved for “individuals, businesses, and organizations showing leadership, innovation or extraordinary service in protecting, improving or cleaning up the environment.”

“This wetland bank is an environmental and economic achievement,” said County Executive Aaron Reardon. “It speaks to the effort Snohomish County is making toward balancing growth with environmental protection, and it shows that our county staff is among the best in the state.”

The 60 acres of created and preserved wetlands on and near airport property can now be used by future county airport projects to offset wetland losses that cannot be avoided. State and federal laws prohibit the loss of most wetlands due to development.

Boardwalk“These banks were only possible through the collaborative efforts of the federal and state agencies, Snohomish County and the airport nearly a decade ago," said Col. Anthony Wright, commander of the Corps’ Seattle District.

Ecology is working with other private and public agencies across the state to create more wetland mitigation banks. Ecology officials said Wednesday that the Paine Field wetland banks are the state’s centerpiece for other projects.

“The future of wetland mitigation will look like the Paine Field bank,” said Jay Manning, Ecology’s director. “We can use this project as a model, applying the lessons learned from this banking approach to future projects throughout the state.”

EPA approval is a must for any wetland mitigation bank, and Washington state’s program is based on federal standards.

“Our region’s wetlands and small streams are not only home to salmon and other threatened and endangered wildlife, but they also prevent flooding and protect us from storm damage” said Elin Miller, EPA’s regional administrator in Seattle. “Our new wetland mitigation rule will help ensure ecological success, while providing greater consistency and predictability for property owners and developers.”

It is not located right next to the airport, but wetlands with open water can't be too close in proximity to airport runways because a "bird strike" - where ducks and geese can get sucked through jet engines - is a dangerous situation.

Swales were graded into the site to help pools form. The collected water, combined with the water that is already present, flows into Narbeck Creek that meanders through neighborhoods down to the ocean.

Larger trees were left alone, and more native plants and trees were planted. More than 300 volunteers, including many Boeing employees, helped with the plantings. In pictures, "you can see managers of the 777 program on their hands and knees in a downpour of rain," Lewallen said.

Snohomish County’s Narbeck wetlands also double as a passive recreational opportunity for thousands of residents and employees living in the area. The county provided public access to the Narbeck project with the help of the Friends of Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary.

Narbeck offers two walking trails, a small loop trail and a one and one-half-mile interpretative trail around the perimeter, with educational signs and self-guided tours. The public park provides an outdoor classroom for groups that overlooks an open water habitat which attracts waterfowl.

The Narbeck Wetlands Sanctuary is located at 6900 Seaway Boulevard in west Everett. Visit their website at
We wish to thank nature photographer extraordinaire, Mary Bess Johnson, for sharing her photos depicting present-day Narbeck's wildlife, boardwalk, and overhead view. Mary Bess is a member of the Friends of Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary's Board of Directors.
Ringneck Ducks Ringneck Ducks pair leaving public north pond for the privacy of southern pond.  Crow Crow gathering nesting materials.  Blue Eyed Dragonfly Blue-eyed Dragonfly
at home among the
Rabbit Rabbit cleaning up after volunteers removed excess growth during recent Earth Day event.
Ruby Crowned Kinglet Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
Snowy Picnic Table
The snowy picnic table shows how accessible and close to civilization the wetland is.
Boardwalk 2
The airport has presented the success of their Program in numerous national, state and regional conferences over the past three years and participates currently in the development of Washington State Rules for Wetland Mitigation Banking.

For further information on the Wetland Compensation Bank Program please contact Bill Lewallen, Deputy Airport Director / Property Development at 425-388-5116 or via e-mail.