Port of Tacoma leads way on habitat restoration
A great environment can coexist with a great economy. In fact, they nourish one another.
A striking new project is taking shape along Highway 509 near Alexander Way. This piece of property, with its beautiful landscaping, trees and meandering stream bed, is the location of the Port of Tacoma’s new Lower Wapato Creek habitat restoration site.
Habitat meets history
Working in partnership with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and their Historic Preservation Office, the Port broke ground on the project in mid-2021. The Lower Wapato Creek site is an advance mitigation project and was specifically designed to restore fish and wetland habitat. The first phase of construction is expected to be complete in April. The second phase—planting native shrubs and trees, irrigation and perimeter fencing—will begin this summer and is slated for completion in spring 2023.
Work done at this location included the replacement of fish-barrier culverts with a fish-passable, full-span bridge that allows Wapato Creek to flow under 12th Street, helping adult and juvenile fish reach Commencement Bay. Wapato Creek was also relocated from a ditched system to a new stream channel that flows through the property, restoring a portion of the creek to its historic location and adding .36 miles of new stream channel. The new creek section will provide fish an additional 10 acres of streams and estuary to forage.
A unique urban landscape
Soon approximately 10 acres of wetlands will surround the new creek channel, providing a variety of estuarine habitats surrounded by forested upland buffer, all designed to increase the diversity and density of fish and bird populations. This type of habitat is very limited in urban areas and is a high priority for restoration within Commencement Bay.
“This site, in addition to the Port’s other habitat improvement efforts, further demonstrates the Port’s commitment and focus on enhancing the Puyallup River watershed and fisheries,” said Don Meyer, Port of Tacoma Commission President. “Enhancing fish and wildlife habitat in urban areas, such as the Tideflats, is an important part of our environmental program.”
To date, the Port has turned 215 acres of land into habitat sites and open space, and invested more than $300 million in environmental programs, including remediation of legacy contamination and restoration of critical salmon habitat in the lower Puyallup River watershed.
For more details on the Lower Wapato Creek project, visit portoftacoma.com/lower-wapato. You can find information about all the Port’s environmental programs at portoftacoma.com/environment.
Content provided by Carol Bua, Port of Tacoma Communications Director