STANWOOD, Wash. -- Five decades ago farmer Menno Groeneveld built an experimental dike around 150 acres of tidelands near Stanwood. One decade ago, The Nature Conservancy bought the land from Groeneveld heirs. On Saturday, Puget Sound will take the farm back.

It s an amazing journey for the land which was never very good for farming, but it was a once vital marshland where the Stillaguamish River met the Sound. With so many of those estuaries already gone, the chance to bring one back was a golden opportunity for the Nature Conservancy but first it had to convince neighbors it was the right thing to do.

The farm was the front edge of productive agricultural land in northern Snohomish County. The group was able to convince other farmers and landowners that it could restore the farm and replace the old dike with a new one several hundred feet behind it that would more effectively protect them from floods.

That decade of work will come to an end this week when the heavy machinery takes off the final layer of the old dike and the Puget Sound high tide rolls back over the land it lost half a century ago.

The returning tides will bring with them native grasses and plants that will provide badly needed habitat for juvenile salmon and other creatures that depend heavily on the sound s few remaining estuarine features.

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