Trustees Release Final Restoration Plan for Natural Resources Injured by Hazardous Substances Releases into Lower Duwamish River, Washington

Last edited 09/03/2020


The Herring’s House (formerly Seaboard Lumber) habitat restoration project site near the mouth of the Lower Duwamish River, shown here in April 2011, looking towards Kellogg Island, is one of the four habitat restoration projects undertaken by the natural resource trustees in King County, Washington. This project restored marsh and riparian vegetation in an intertidal, off-channel basin and opened a nearby public park. Photo credit: Michael Carlson, FWS.

On September 24, 2013, the federal, State and Tribal natural resource trustees released the publicly-reviewed “Final Lower Duwamish River NRDA Restoration Plan and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.” This Restoration Plan is intended to expedite future site-specific restoration projects and to facilitate preparation of project-specific environmental documents associated with natural resource injuries at the Lower Duwamish River National Priorities List site in Seattle, King County, Washington.

The natural resource trustees involved in this case include;

  • Muckleshoot Indian Tribe;
  • Suquamish Tribe;
  • State of Washington, represented by Washington Department of Ecology, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Department of Natural Resources;
  • U.S. Department of Commerce, represented by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and,
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Duwamish River -- the name for the lower 12 miles of Green River in Washington -- empties into Elliott Bay in Seattle, King County. The shorelines along the River have been extensively developed for industrial and commercial operations. These operations include cargo handling and storage, marine construction, boat manufacturing, marina operations, paper and metals fabrication, food processing and airplane parts manufacturing. The waterway is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a federal navigation channel.

Hazardous substances were released to the River by several likely mechanisms including spills during product shipping and handling, direct disposal, contaminated groundwater discharge, surface water runoff, contaminated soil runoff and storm water discharge through outfalls. Sediments in the River are contaminated with semi-volatile organic compounds, PCBs, inorganic compounds and organotins. In 2001, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency placed the lower five miles of Duwamish River on the NPL.

Lower Duwamish River provides important estuarine habitat and serves as a migratory route, nursery and osmoregulatory transition zone for several salmon species including the federally threatened Puget Sound Chinook salmon. The area is important for commercial, recreational and subsistence fishing and is part of the traditional fishing grounds of Muckleshoot and Suquamish Indian tribes. Extensive studies in the River and in Elliott Bay have determined that contaminated sediments have injured natural resources such as flatfish, salmonids and migratory birds.

This newly released Restoration Plan will guide implementation of natural resource restoration activities in the Lower Duwamish River and Elliott Bay. The Plan selects “Integrated Habitat Restoration” as the preferred restoration alternative. Under this approach, restoration of key habitats is anticipated to benefit the range of different resources injured by hazardous substances releases. Additionally, the Plan includes a detailed description of the methodology considered for use in a settlement-based approach to injury assessment.

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