Port of Tacoma – Lower Wapato Creek Habitat Project

The project is a 18.52 acre habitat improvement project that will remove a fish passage barrier and will restore Wapato Creek with a diverse mosaic of interconnected stream channel, estuary, emergent, and forested wetlands and riparian habitat to generate advance permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation credits for future Port of Tacoma projects.

The project will provide unimpeded fish access and habitat connectivity upstream of the project, improve hydrology and flood conveyance, reduce flow velocities, improve and expand fish and riparian habitat, and restore estuary and natural stream processes such as sediment movement and tidal exchange. Wapato Creek is a fish-bearing stream with a variety of Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed and other fish species. Fish species present include salmon (coho, chum, pink), steelhead, sea run cutthroat, and resident trout. The project will create 10.02 acres of wetland (forested, emergent, estuary), 8.50 acres of vegetated upland buffer, and 0.36 miles of new stream channel.

Replacing undersized culverts with a full-span bridge will improve a stream that is culturally important to the Puyallup Tribe of Indians while immediately enhancing the safety of 12th St E. The current crossing at Wapato Creek is dangerous and lacks a shoulder or curb on either side of the street and there are no safety barriers to prevent a car from falling into Wapato Creek.

The Port worked closely with stakeholders including the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, City of Fife and Tacoma, Tacoma Power, Washington State Department of Transportation, Washington State Department of Ecology, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The innovative nature of this project allows mitigation credits to be generated in advance of a future impact thereby lowering both the ecological and financial impact of future projects. The ecological impact will be lowered by creating new habitat before habitat is impacted in the future, thereby lowering temporal loss of habitat and ensuring success of the habitat project.