Prior to the first Duwamish Alive event in 2006, the numerous groups working along the Duwamish River were all working separately. We saw the advantages of coordinating efforts to pool resources and maximize effects on a regular basis. The DA Coalition is able to draw on the various strengths and resources of its members to support large volunteer events at multiple sites throughout the Duwamish watershed. Additionally, collaborating allows us to leverage funding in unique ways to truly maximize our efforts.
Restoring the health of urban rivers such as the Duwamish is essential to restoring the health of Puget Sound. The Duwamish is our hometown river, flowing through heavily developed and industrialized areas of South Seattle and King County into Elliott Bay. The river’s lower five miles once meandered through a delta and floodplain of thousands of acres, but was turned into a straightened channel in the last century. After years of industrial discharges and overburdened storm-sewer drains, it is now a Federal Superfund Cleanup site. Duwamish restoration is therefore high-profile, draws the most public participation, and is where it is needed most. Habitat restoration and rehabilitation in the Duwamish River watershed provides opportunities for the public to participate in improving the health of Puget Sound.
The events continue to build a sense of community around what was historically considered Seattle’s forgotten urban waterway. The years of social and environmental injustices that allowed toxic contamination and lax clean-up standards have left their mark on the low income communities along the Duwamish. Some of these injustices are being addressed through the Superfund cleanup and other cleanup and monitoring efforts along the river. Others will be addressed through better legislation and access to government. The ownership and promise of a restored Duwamish River is exemplified by this event, and the restoration sites that now dot the shoreline provide recreation, river views and a reconnection to the river’s history. Duwamish Alive and its restoration events and festivities include a multi-generational and multi-ethnic audience that enjoy working side by side towards common goals of healthy communities for fish, wildlife and human health.
Stewardship of restoration sites is vital to ensure that restored areas continue to successfully provide critical ecological services long after sites are created. The sites also provide an ongoing resource to engage and introduce citizens to the process of restoration. Some jurisdictions often consider habitat restoration to be complete after initial native plantings are carried out, yet such sites are often far from meeting criteria as functional habitat. Maintenance of restored sites is particularly important in urban settings, since degraded soil, small lot sizes, high foot traffic, and proximity to invasive plant seed sources present ongoing challenges. Furthermore, urban restoration rarely occurs under ideal conditions, and hence requires additional vigilance. Invasive species can overwhelm a site in a single growing season, and relatively small changes can amount to a complete loss of habitat function on a small site. Regular maintenance and monitoring also allows for identification and control of unanticipated problems as they arise.
The restoration sites themselves support recovering populations of migrating juvenile Green River Chinook salmon, rare native salt marshes, migrating birds and other wildlife once common in the vast Duwamish Delta. Chinook salmon are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. All activities will improve habitat quality for salmonids and may provide additional benefits for bald eagles, which are present and feeding in all of the identified areas. The work conducted also improves the overall ecological function and habitat value of the nearshore environment.
Specifically, this work will benefit the following species:
- Five Pacific salmon species including Chinook, listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and coho, a candidate species for listing.
- Bull trout, which are listed as Threatened under the ESA (NOAA-RAE proposal).