Cooperatove Conservation Project

Commencement Bay Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration

From Derelict Waterfront to Prime Salmon Habitat

Location: Far West Region: Washington

Project Summary: This project showcases community-based restoration in Commencement Bay, a heavily urbanized, industrial area.
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Trustees preparing for the big planting day by positioning plants that will be planted later on by volunteers. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NOAA)
Resource Challenge

Commencement Bay was built in the early 1900’s by dredging and filling 4,000 acres of tidal flats and estuaries. Today, it is a major trans-Pacific port ringed by chemical, concrete, aluminum, and lumber manufacturers. Despite past filling and dredging, the Bay still provides critical rearing and feeding habitat for many marine species, including endangered Chinook salmon.

Restoring urban industrial areas is expensive and complex, requiring extraordinary cooperation. The Commencement Bay partnership grew from a common responsibility and a mandate of the National Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process to restore, replace, or acquire natural resources equivalent to those once found in the Bay. The partnership leverages and facilitates more restoration activity than the NRDA Trustees could accomplish alone. Community-based restoration has not only increased the extent of restoration, but inspired a commitment to the bay’s long-term stewardship.

Examples of Key Partners

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, State of Washington Departments of: Ecology, Natural Resources, and Fish and Wildlife; Indian Tribes: Puyallup and Muckleshoot; Citizens For A Healthy Bay (CHB); Friends of Hylebos Wetlands; Earth Corps; South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group; Ridol. Inc.; City of Tacoma; Pierce County Water Programs; Pierce Conservation District; Sumner Sportsmen’s Association; and David Adams, landowner.

Results and Accomplishments

The following projects have been completed or are scheduled for completion soon:

  • Trustees, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Pierce County Water Programs, and the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group reconnected the 96th Street Oxbow to the river’s main channel by widening a culvert in the levee and digging a historic channel.
  • A 15-acre project site, littered with derelict vessels and equipment, was cleared of debris, restoring a migratory corridor for young salmonids.
  • CHB purchases, assembles, and distributes clean boating kits that help prevent fuel spills and keep contaminated bilge water from entering the Bay, educating boaters on "green" operation.
  • Recently purchased 16 acres to construct fish and wildlife habitat along the last tidally-influenced reach of Hylebos Creek.
  • The Sha Dadx (Frank Albert Road) project will convert a relic channel of the Puyallup River to salmonid and other habitat and allow water to flow between the river and wetland. A ring levee will surround the entire project for flood control.
  • Restoration projects have been completed, or will be soon, at Middle Waterway, Olympic View, Swan Creek, Tahoma Salt Marsh, Mowitch, Skookum Wuldge, Squally Beach, Yowkwala, Sportsmen’s Oxbow, and St. Paul Cap.

Evolution of a mandate into a partnership that leverages voluntary participation and community-based restoration grants into long-term stewardship.

Project Contact
Lance Winecka
Project Manager
South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group



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