Puyallup Tribe, state officials dedicate Port of Tacoma 26-acre habitat

Native American songs heralded a welcome to salmon and other wildlife at the July 20 dedication of a new 26-acre habitat site along Hylebos Creek in Tacoma. Puyallup Tribe of Indians and state officials helped the Port of Tacoma unveil the site with a Twulshootseed name chosen by Tribe officials that means “Place of Circling Waters.”

The 26-acre site at the mouth of Hylebos Creek features valuable intertidal marsh, stream channels and forested open space. The site, connected to several other restored areas along the creek, is part of a larger effort to rejuvenate salmon runs on the tidally-influenced stream. Water birds and other wildlife also inhabit the site. A kingfisher’s nest was left undisturbed, and hawks, herons, coyotes and jellyfish have been spotted.

While most of the site at 1621 Marine View Drive is fenced off to protect the habitat and wildlife, a paved walkway leads from the parking area to a publicly accessible overlook so people may appreciate the beauty of our region and the jobs that help sustain it.

“This place reaffirms that a working waterfront can provide, and coexist with, sustainable habitat and public access spaces,” Commission President Connie Bacon told dedication guests. “These restorations also serve to remind us how interconnected we all are, as economic, environmental, cultural and community partners.”

The Port purchased the property in 2005 for habitat restoration and mitigation. The property is divided into five separate projects to meet current or future regulatory obligations, but it was designed as one to provide greater environmental value than smaller, separate projects. To build the $13.6 million salmon-friendly site, the Port reclaimed a former gravel mine, removed nearly 255,000 tons of contaminated material, created intertidal channels to benefit salmon and other wildlife, and planted 35,000 native trees and shrubs.

Construction at the former gravel mine and dump for building materials turned up some surprises. Excavators found more contamination than expected, including more than 7,000 tons of concrete, as well as soils tainted by wood waste, metals and hydrocarbons. See photos of the construction online at http://www.flickr.com/photos/portoftacoma/sets/72157624719192072/ .

The digging also uncovered a Native American artifact, which was presented to Tribe officials at the dedication ceremony.

At high tide, up to 3.5 feet of water flows from the creek into the newly created intertidal zone. The excavated stream channels fill with up to 8 feet of water. These areas provide adult salmon with a place to acclimate to freshwater before heading upstream to spawn and a place for juvenile salmon to acclimate to saltwater before heading out to Puget Sound. The channels and marsh land harbor insects, crustaceans and other food for the salmon.

For more information, vist http://www.portoftacoma.com/hylebos-creek.

Place of Circling Waters. (PHOTOS COURTESY PORT OF TACOMA)