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Piling removal next step to returning waterfront to people of Tacoma

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began removal of the more than 2300 creosote laden pilings that have plagued the Tacoma waterfront for nearly 100 years early last month. Demolition at Point Ruston, which was home to former copper smelter giant, ASARCO, was once one of the worst contaminated sites in Washington history.

“The culmination of this restoration project speaks to the commitment of the people of the state to the clean up and recovery of Puget Sound,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “Cleaning up the environmental disasters of the past will open the doors to healthier communities and more economic opportunities in the future.”

Currently, about 50% of the project has been completed. Completion of demolition of the creosote soaked pilings and a combined decking area of 66,795 square feet (approximately 1.5 acres) is expected in early December.

“The removal of these pilings represents another significant milestone in our continued effort to protect and restore Puget Sound,” said Congressman Norm Dicks. “A clean and healthy Puget Sound is critical to human health and our economy. I remain committed to doing what I can to continue progress on this important initiative.”

More than $2.6 million has been allocated to the Point Ruston restoration project, $1.3 million of the funding coming from the ASARCO bankruptcy settlement when the plant closed. Over the past decade, DNR has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington Department of Ecology, the Puget Sound Partnership, the City of Tacoma and Point Ruston to clean-up the site, removing hundreds of creosote treated pilings.

“We supported the funding of this project because it is truly a win-win. By removing these pilings and docks we are stopping an ongoing source of pollution and clearing the way for the clean-up of the contamination in the sediments of Puget Sound,” said David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “In addition, we are removing a major blight that will greatly increase the attractiveness and marketability of the Point Ruston development project.   This project demonstrates, once again, that environmental clean-up and economic progress are two sides of the same coin.”

The removal of pilings will allow for completion of the capping area near the water, and the remaining bulk head (seawall) remediation and improvement. Upon completion in December, and subsequent final work on the bulk head, Point Ruston will set into a permanent easement of more than 1 mile and 10 acres of the waterfront to bridge the gap from Ruston Way to Point Defiance Park.

“Hundreds of workers have transformed this site over the last few years to restore our community’s interface with Commencement Bay,” said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland.  “We are a waterfront city. I am proud of this project and the collaboration and commitment it represents. I look forward to the many thousands of jobs that will be created right here as this site is transformed into a safe, walkable and livable waterfront.”

DNR-Steward of state aquatic lands

As steward of the 2.6 million acres of state aquatic lands, DNR manages the bedlands under Puget Sound and the coast, many of Washington’s beaches, and natural lakes and navigable rivers. DNR manages these lands not only to facilitate navigation, commerce, and public access, but also to ensure protection of aquatic habitat.

State-owned aquatic lands include:
•    About 68,100 acres of state-owned tidelands, or 106 square miles
•    90,000 acres of harbor areas
•    All submerged marine lands below extreme low tide-that’s 3,430 square miles of bedlands under navigable waters, as well as freshwater shorelands and bedlands

Peter Goldmark, who administers the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, is Washington’s 13th Commissioner of Public Lands since statehood in 1889.

This article originally found on DNR Site.

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