Conservation easements open mile of shore, bluff in DuPont to public

Staff writerMarch 31, 2014 

A mile of Puget Sound shoreline and a 45-acre forested bluff in DuPont are now officially protected and partially open to the public as part of restoration efforts in the Sequalitchew Creek watershed in south Pierce County.

DuPont Mayor Michael Grayum recently approved the conservation easements from property owner CalPortland Company.

CalPortland had previously agreed to preserve the land as part of larger plans to mine a northern portion of its property. The company operates a gravel mine along the city’s northern border near Puget Sound.

The public already could access the water from the Sequalitchew Creek trail that starts at the city’s Civic Center and meanders a mile down to the beach, but the new protection will extend that access a mile to the north of where the trail hits the beach. Before, if people walked that stretch of shoreline, they were trespassing on private land, but the protection takes away that threat, Grayum said.

Although accessible to the public now, there is no easy access to and from the 45-acre bluff. Eventually a trail will be built to connect the shoreline with the upland views, giving people the chance to hike an area that connects to some of the state’s early history with the Hudson’s Bay Company.

The conservation easements are part of a larger agreement finalized in 2012 between CalPortland, the city of DuPont, state Department of Ecology and a coalition of environmental groups focused on restoring Sequalitchew Creek and Edmond Marsh.

The agreement was partly an attempt to head off costly court battles with the mining company.

Part of the agreement stipulated CalPortland would dedicate the easements once it received local, state and federal permits needed to mine its northern section.

Pete Stoltz, CalPortland’s permitting manager, said the company has obtained the necessary permits and has begun preparing the northern parcel for mining.

The area designated under the easements will preserve the Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve’s scenic view shed and maintain the biological continuity of the reach and the Nisqually River Delta, said Tom Skjervold, president of the Nisqually Delta Association.

The protections are a significant step in the ongoing effort to preserve and restore the natural area around the Sequalitchew Creek Canyon, he said.

“From the perspective of the Nisqually Delta Association, this is something we’ve been tracking for, good grief, 40 years really,” Skjervold said last week.

A significant part of the 2012 agreement was protecting the bluffs and shoreline overlooking Puget Sound, Skjervold said. His agency was happy to see that step complete, but there’s still a lot of work to be done, he said.

Another condition of the agreement is that CalPortland will pay for the planning of creek restoration efforts and part of the restoration work.

That work will bring protection to the shoreline, including enhancing habitat that once was home to salmon and trout breeding areas.

Several groups comprise the environmental coalition involved in the creek protection efforts including the Nisqually Delta Association, Washington Environmental Council, Anderson Island Quality of Life Committee, the Tahoma, Black Hills and Seattle chapters of the Audubon Society and the Sequalitchew Creek Watershed Council. The Nisqually Indian Tribe was also supportive of the easements.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467 brynn.grimley@ thenewstribune.com

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