Boeing Company to Restore Salmon Habitat in Seattle Waterway

SEATTLE, Washington, May 6, 2010 (ENS) – The aircraft, aerospace and defense corporation Boeing has agreed to undertake two habitat restoration projects in Washington state to resolve its liability for natural resource damages caused by hazardous substances released from Boeing facilities along the Duwamish Waterway in Seattle.

Under the consent decree filed in federal district court in Seattle on Tuesday, Boeing will create habitat for out-migrating juvenile salmon making their transition from fresh water to salt water, as well as habitat for other fish and bird species.

The settlement resolves the natural resource trustees’ claims against Boeing, which are contained in a complaint filed with the consent decree. The complaint asserts claims for natural resource damages under the federal Superfund statute, the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act, and Washington’s Model Toxics Control Act.

Signed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Interior, the Washington State Department of Ecology and the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Indian tribes, the agreement fulfills federal and state requirements for Boeing along the waterway.

The cleanup and habitat restoration projects will create nearly five acres of contiguous intertidal wetlands, restore more than half a mile of waterway and establish a resting area for migratory fish in and along the lower Duwamish Waterway.

Boeing Field beside the Duwamish Waterway in the greater Seattle area (Photo by Brewbooks)

Boeing also will repay almost $2 million of the natural resource trustees’ costs and will establish a permanent stewardship fund for the projects.

“We are committed to restoring habitat along the Duwamish and conducting environmental work that is vital to the ecosystem, nearby wetlands, the Puget Sound and to our community,” said Mary Armstrong, Boeing vice president of Environment, Health and Safety. “This is the largest planned habitat restoration in the Duwamish Waterway, and it will provide an important ecological resource to improve Puget Sound fish runs.”

Cleanup and restoration activity is scheduled to begin in fall 2012, once final agency approvals and permits are obtained, and expected to take several years to complete. The project will involve excavating more than 100,000 cubic yards of sediment and replacing it with clean sand. Sediments in the Lower Duwamish Waterway are contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, phthalates, and inorganics.

The Lower Duwamish Waterway also is fished for recreational, commercial, and subsistence purposes. Three salmon hatcheries within the Green-Duwamish River system release some 10 million juvenile salmon each year. The Duwamish River is part of the traditional fishing grounds for the Muckleshoot and Suquamish tribes.

“Restoring injured natural resources in the Lower Duwamish Waterway is very important, and this settlement is a first step in that direction,” said Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Through this settlement, we are sending a signal that we will protect natural resources and we will act to restore them when they are injured.”

This work is being done in coordination with source control measures to mitigate the impact of materials flowing into the waterway from Boeing property, nearby King County International Airport, local highways and roads and surrounding businesses and residential neighborhoods.

In conjunction with this activity, Boeing will demolish several aging buildings located at its Plant 2 facility in Seattle to facilitate cleanup efforts. The buildings, partially constructed on pilings over the waterway between 1936 and 1941, produced many of the B-17s used in World War II and have not been an active part of Boeing’s airplane production operations for 40 years.

Boeing will demolish the buildings, clean up the effects of past practices and restore the waterway and nearby wetlands. The company is developing plans to commemorate the site’s historic legacy before the demolition.

Tuesday’s announcement is the latest in a series of recent developments aimed at restoring the Duwamish Waterway.

On March 3, Boeing and the Washington State Department of Ecology reached agreement on plans to test soil, groundwater and sediment at the 9.8-acre Isaacson site and the 19.4-acre Thompson site, both south of Plant 2.

On February 12, Boeing, King County and the city of Seattle reached agreement regarding cleanup of Slip 4, a 6.4-acre parcel of the waterway north of Plant 2.

The Duwamish Waterway was created in the early 1900s when a 9.3-mile stretch of the waterway in south Seattle was straightened, dredged and transformed into a 5.3 mile-long navigational channel with deep-water port facilities. In 1909, what was then the world’s largest man-made island was built at the mouth of the waterway for industrial uses.

Boeing began operations along the Duwamish Waterway in 1936. In 2001, the waterway was listed as a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Puget Sound Regional Council estimates that businesses along the lower Duwamish Waterway currently provide approximately 80,000 jobs, and that 84 percent of the industrial lands within the city of Seattle are located along the waterway.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.