Tacoma port commission approves $19 million in environmental and land preparation projects

Staff writerMarch 12, 2014 

The Port of Tacoma Commission Wednesday authorized environmental restoration projects that promise to restore key wetlands.

Total cost of the two projects along lower Wapato Creek and Clear Creek will exceed $19 million.

Not all of the $10.3 million cost of the Wapato Creek habitat project will involve restoration; some will be allocated to prepare a port-owned parcel nearby for construction of State Route 167's extension to the port area.

The restoration project, located on what the port calls Parcel 14, is located south of State Route 509 east of Alexander Avenue and north of East 12th Street.

The port used that parcel for 40 years for disposal of dredging spoils.  Settlement of that material has created uneven terrain where rain water is ponding and water flow is restricted.

The port's restoration project would grade part of that parcel to prepare for highway construction and for more efficient drainage. The port and other local governments have been lobbying for the state to fund connection of State Route 167 in Puyallup to State Route 509 in the port to make port access easier for trucks.  The Legislature has yet to fund the project.

The part of the tract nearer the creek would be re-contoured to restore the meandering path of the creek and to create habitat for animals, fish and birds.

That restored 18-acre part of the site would be set aside for future mitigation for port construction projects. The restoration would relocate several Tacoma Power poles, remove a fish trap culvert and restore natural plant life to the area.

The port hopes to complete the project in September 2016.

The other project authorized Wednesday calls for construction to begin this summer on a habitat restoration project on Clear Creek located off Gay Road south of the Puyallup River.

The port in part is moving forward with that project because of a settlement negotiated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  That habitat project will compensate for the port's failure to obtain proper permits when it cleared vegetation from a port-owned parcel inhabited by invasive snails.

The port said it moved quickly to clear a small tract of land between the Blair and Hylebos Waterways several years ago because it needed to eradicate the snails which could have spread and caused millions of dollars of damage to Washington crops.  Those snails apparently arrived in the port hitchhiking aboard some imported cargo.

But the EPA said the port should have taken time to get the permits needed to clear the wetlands where the snails were located.

Total cost of the project which will include re-contouring the land and planting native vegetation is estimated at $9.064 million. During the project, the creek channel will be reoriented and  a salmon spawning area will be created.

The project is expected to be completed by September 30, 2017.

 

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