Port completes land transfer with county

While growth at the Port of Tacoma creates thousands of family-wage jobs for South Puget Sound, expansion of Port facilities is improving the quality of life for more than just people. The region’s wildlife is gaining habitat through Port environmental programs.

The most recent example, says Port of Tacoma Commission President Connie Bacon, is the recent transfer to Pierce County of a 10-acre forested and aquatic parcel on the upper Puyallup River near the fast-developing town of Orting, Washington.

“The river is under pressure from development,” Bacon said of the parcel, located about 30 miles upriver from Port terminals. “This transfer from the Port to Pierce County ensures that this property is preserved and protected from future development and acts as a water quality buffer for aquatic life.”

The Port purchased the property in January 2005. The subsequent transfer to Pierce County is part of the Port’s environmental mitigation package to offset impacts of infrastructure improvements involving the widening of portions of the Blair Waterway.

“We saw an opportunity to acquire this property and protect the river from development,” said Timothy J. Farrell, the Port’s Executive Director. “Over the past two decades, the Port has invested more than $162 million in environmental programs. Protecting upriver wildlife habitat helps to ensure a healthy ecosystem for the entire Puyallup River Watershed, including Commencement Bay.”

According to Port of Tacoma Commissioner R. Ted Bottiger, the land transfer is consistent with a Commission Resolution adopted in August 2005, supporting the Shared Strategy for Puget Sound, a collaborative effort to protect and restore regional salmon runs. “For years, our Port has worked with local environmental stewards to create, protect and restore more than 70 acres of productive aquatic habitat,” he said.

“This effort by the Port is another example of the great cooperative work being done by numerous agencies in the area, all with the intent of addressing the most significant environmental and flooding issues in the region,” said Pierce County Executive John W. Ladenburg. “Real advancement is made when agencies are able to look beyond their jurisdictional boundaries.”

According to Port Environmental Program Manager Michael Shaw, the Orting site supports diverse habitats and wildlife. “Protecting and preserving waterside habitat like this is important to the health of our region’s entire ecosystem,” he said.