by Lisa Copeland, communications manager, Spills program
It’s been eleven years since a significant and devastating crude oil spill occurred in Puget Sound’s Dalco Passage near Tacoma. But if you visited a former fishing port on Maury Island today, you’d probably never know the spill happened.
The October 2004 incident involved ConocoPhillips Co.’s oil tanker Polar Texas, which lost 7,200 gallons of crude oil during evening hours. The unreported spill spread oil out on the water throughout the night and later patches of oily sheen reached as far south as the Tacoma Narrows and as far north as Eagle Harbor.
The sheen touched 15 miles of shore along Colvos Passage, the Narrows and Quartermaster Harbor. Six miles of beach on southern Vashon and Maury islands required cleanup to remove the oil.
In 2010, Conoco Phillips Co. agreed to pay $588,000 to help compensate the public for environmental harm caused by the spill. Reports showed the spill caused harm to Puget Sound Chinook salmon and other salmon species, forage fish, shellfish and their habitats, as well as other bird and wildlife species. Several areas were analyzed, plans were developed and comments were collected. Dockton, an area on Vashon Island and one of three projects proposed by state, federal and tribal governments was selected to receive the restoration funds. King County agreed to manage the project.
The project got underway in 2012 and involved re-grading the Dockton site to re-create a salt marsh wetland. This was done by removing 350 feet of bulkheads to help restore natural shorelines. The project also included taking out boat houses and removing creosote-contaminated pilings and other debris in the intertidal zone.
“After removing the shoreline armoring and fill on the site, the shoreline can act naturally for the first time in over 100 years,” said Greg Rabourn, King County‘s Vashon Basin Steward and project proponent.
Today salmon, forage fish, birds, and shellfish are benefiting from the restoration. And the former village port isn’t just environmentally friendly, it’s beautiful.
Although not part of the restoration, recreational opportunities and public access to the Sound at Dockton Park are abundant and breathtaking. From dog-walking to beach-combing, these bonuses at the site promise something for all ages.
Check out the before and after pictures. Please visit our Flickr site for more photos.