Dilapidated docks, creosote piles to be removed from Chambers Creek, Steilacoom waterfronts

Work began Thursday to clean up the shoreline at Sunnyside Beach Park in Steilacoom and will start next month at Pierce County’s Chambers Creek Regional Park in University Place.

On the Steilacoom waterfront, the cleanup effort will remove 32 creosote piles. In University Place, it will take out two docks, including almost 800 creosote piles.

The dilapidated docks and piles date to a time when gravel mining dominated the waterfront.

In Steilacoom, the piles are remnants of what was a conveyor belt that carried sand and gravel from the hillside to the water. For close to a decade, Town of Steilacoom leaders have discussed removing the creosote piles that jut out from its most popular waterfront park.

Town officials reached out to the state Department of Natural Resources when they learned DNR was working with Pierce County to remove the unused docks at Chambers Creek through the state’s creosote removal program.

It made sense to combine the projects because of their proximity, Steilacoom Mayor Ron Lucas said.

“We're just happy that we were included in the project with DNR and we welcome the continued efforts to take those kind of irritants and pollution items out of Puget Sound,” Lucas said.

Eliminating the piles removes the ecological issue of creosote seeping into the water and damaging the surrounding habitat, Town Administrator Paul Loveless said. It also removes a navigational hazard.

“We have a lot of kayakers and small boaters that go through there,” he said.

Removing the piles helps restore intertidal and near-shore habitat and improve overall water quality, according to the state.

The work on the Steilacoom waterfront is expected to finish by the end of the month. The beach will remain open during the work, but access will be restricted near the piles.

When work wraps up in Steilacoom, focus will shift to the 2.5-mile beach at Chambers Creek.

Referred to as the north dock and south dock, the structures have a combined 12,150-square-feet of decaying deck. The deck and almost 800 creosote piles and associated concrete structures and piles will be removed by the end of the project. Beach access will be limited in the area around the removal efforts.

The docks, which are not used, block the natural movement of sediment and create unwanted shade along the critical near-shore habitat.

Because purple martins nest in the area around the south dock, work on its removal will not begin until nesting season ends, typically in September. If the birds are still around when work is set to begin, contractor Orion Marine Contractors Inc. will start with removal of over-water structures at the north dock.

Work will begin on the north dock on Oct. 1.

The project is expected to be complete by Jan. 1.

Pierce County will use a $2.5 million appropriation it received from the state Legislature to help pay for the work. The county will also contribute $788,800 for onshore cleanup work. DNR will use $1.7 million to remove the in-water piles and docks.

Last year Pierce County removed another 200 derelict creosote pilings from Chambers Creek Regional Park after receiving a $160,000 grant.