Community

Project will build rare salt marsh at the harbor

King County is making plans to transform a stretch of shoreline at Dockton, removing a bulkhead that has been in place for decades and creating an ecologically important salt marsh.

A two-week comment period for the project, which is required by law, begins today, and tours of the site will be offered tomorrow evening.

“I am very excited about it,” said Greg Rabourn, Vashon’s basin steward who is heading the project and will help lead the tours. “It’s great to see progress being made, and here’s a chance for us to do another little piece of saving Puget Sound.”

Funds for the $480,000 project came from a settlement with ConocoPhillips, after a 2004 oil spill in Dalco Passage, near the harbor, that fouled hundreds of acres of shoreline. The county chose the project from a few proposed restoration projects to be completed on the south end of Vashon.

“Because the oil spill damaged publicly owned resources, the money can be used for restoring publicly owned resources,” Rabourn said. “We’re restoring some important shoreline habitat.”

The 375 feet of county-owned shoreline by Dockton Park was historically the site of a lumber mill, Rabourn said. The bulkhead has been rebuilt over time, and creosote pilings are also left behind.

Salt marshes, once common in the region, are now rare, Rabourn said. The tidally influenced marshes, home to saltwater tolerant plants, provide important habitat for forage fish, salmon, insects, birds and other shoreline creatures.

The county believes a salt marsh, or at least a saltwater estuary, once existed at the low, flat beach at Dockton. Once the county removes the pilings and bulkhead, Rabourn said, a saltwater inlet will be created and native plants installed. The beach will again begin to naturally replenish itself and collect driftwood for animal habitat. The project is especially important, Rabourn said, considering that so much of the county’s shoreline has been bulkheaded and altered.

“It’s a really great opportunity to try to create this rare habitat,” Rabourn said. “It’s quite special.”

Tom Dean, director of the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust, said he remembers the oil spill in Dalco Passage. And though the damage from the spill can’t be undone, he said, he is glad to see the settlement funds put to good use.

“I love to see this stuff happen. It gets to my roots in conservation work,” he said.

Dean said the loss of salt marshes throughout the region has contributed to the decline in salmon populations. Even in Quartermaster, the new marsh will be a step in the right direction.

“It’s not going to have a huge effect on water quality, but it’s going to be great fish habitat, and that’s one thing we’re lacking in all of Puget Sound, and especially Central Puget Sound,” he said.

 

King County staff will give tours of the site at 6 and 7 p.m. Thursday. For more on the project and how to comment, see www.kingcounty.gov/environment/animalsandplants, click “Habitat restoration projects,” and choose the Dockton project.

 

 

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