Foss Waterway Park: More funds needed for site cleanup

A cleanup effort under way to turn a former industrial site at the head of Thea Foss Waterway into a public park and boat launch is turning out to be more expensive than originally planned.

According to staff with the City of Tacoma and the Foss Waterway Development Authority (FWDA), the remediation project that began in May at the former American Plating site, located at 2110 East D Street near Berg Scaffolding and the D Street Overpass, was originally estimated to remove and treat approximately 350 tons of soil. Instead, contractors removed 1,100 tons of contaminated soil from the site. Additionally, the cap and fill for the project increased by 3,500 tons due to soil testing results that exceeded Model Toxics Control Act standards. And issues related to storm and sewer lines have also made the project more expensive. In one instance, a deteriorated sewer line broke during the project.

These factors have raised the cost of the project from $680,000 to $1.2 million.

On Tuesday, Tacoma City Council’s community and economic development committee was briefed on the issue. In order to close the funding gap, City and FWDA staff have recommended that $350,000 in brownfield bond funds originally set aside for Point Ruston Waterwalk be used to pay for the additional environmental cleanup at Foss Waterway Park. Councilmembers are scheduled to discuss the issue again during a meeting at City Hall on Tues., Aug. 7 at 3 p.m.

The Foss Waterway Park project has received funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency in cooperation with the Washington State Department of Commerce, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and FWDA. The remediation work that began in May involved “removing heavily contaminated soils, covering other contamination with three feet of clean soil, and monitoring groundwater,” according to the Department of Ecology’s Web site. According to a report completed by the Department of Ecology in 2003, between 1955 and 1986, three different companies operated industrial metal electroplating activities on the site. The FWDA purchased the site seven years ago and envisioned creating a public park for visitors to launch kayaks or canoes and enjoy views of downtown Tacoma across the waterway.

FWDA interim executive director Su Dowie told the council committee Tuesday that her organization has talked to Metro Parks Tacoma staff about management of the 1.7-acre Foss Waterway Park.

“The intent of the development authority is to redevelop the park and then, in our discussion with Metro Parks, they are willing to accept the park if it’s fully redeveloped and there’s a revenue stream associated with it,” said Dowie. One way to generate revenue would be to renovate a boat house on the site and lease it to a boat rental company and concessionaire. “So there would be those private elements in the boat house that would be revenue-generating, and that would be part of where the revenue would come from to help sustain the park. That’s kind of the long-term vision of how the project would come together.”

Dowie also told the council committee that while a portion of the property fronting Foss Waterway is now open to the public, full development of the park, which also includes land currently leased by Berg Scaffolding, will depend on how successful the organization is at fund-raising.

“Right now, some of the grants that we would typically apply for, the state has clawed back,” said Dowie. “So it’s really grant dependent on how quickly we can move forward. We would like to see this done in the next two to three years. But it may take that long to source the funds because we’re going to be looking for at least $2 million for the park and then another three-quarters-of-a-million for the adaption of the existing building for a boat house until all funds can be raised for the structure.”

Cleanup efforts at the former American Plating site began in May as part of a long-term vision to turn the 1.7-acre parcel of land at the head of Thea Foss Waterway into a public park. (PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF TACOMA)