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A boat navigates the Lower Duwamish River with industrial development on both sides of the river's banks.
A boat navigates the Lower Duwamish River with industrial development on both sides of the river's banks.

Proposed Settlement to Benefit Fish and Wildlife on the Lower Duwamish River Released for Public Comment

March 7, 2024

On March 7, 2024, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a proposed settlement to compensate for natural resource injuries resulting from hazardous substances released into the Lower Duwamish River in Washington. The settlement will resolve the liability of Crowley Marine Services, Inc. (Crowley), 8th Avenue Terminals, Inc. and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for injuries to natural resources from hazardous waste pollution, as well as the cost of assessing those injuries. 

NOAA and co-Trustees are conducting a natural resource damage assessment to investigate the impacts of decades of releases of hazardous chemicals into the Lower Duwamish River, and determine the appropriate type and amount of restoration needed to offset those impacts.

As part of the settlement, the parties will purchase credits in Restoration Project One on the Lower Duwamish River, developed by Bluefield Holdings Inc., and make a cash payment to the Trustees. The Trustees will use the payment to fund future restoration on the river.

Restoration Project One, completed in 2014, is located on the west side of the West Waterway on the Lower Duwamish River. This site created habitat types that are scarce in the industrialized river: marsh, mudflat, and riparian habitats. The off-channel inlet created marsh and mudflat habitats, and provides a place for juvenile salmon and other fish to rest and find food. Riparian habitats allow migratory birds to feed and nest.

Public Comment 

The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period open until April 15th, 2024, and final court approval. It's available for viewing at the Department of Justice website. Please refer to the Federal Register notice for instructions on submitting public comments on the settlement. 

Background on the Site

The Lower Duwamish River is a highly developed, urbanized and industrialized estuary. Hazardous substances have been released since the early 1900s with over 30 hazardous substances documented in the sediments of the Lower Duwamish River. The waterway includes three Superfund sites: Lockheed West, Harbor Island, and the Lower Duwamish Waterway. Toxic contaminants resulted in injuries to fish, birds, wildlife and their habitats and recreational uses, including fishing. Also, channelization and filling destroyed approximately 97 percent of the original aquatic and shoreline habitat.

The Elliott Bay Trustees are conducting a natural resource damage assessment to assess impacts of this contamination and securing restoration on behalf of the public. The Trustees include for the United States NOAA, and the U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; the State of Washington, on behalf of the Department of Ecology and Department of Fish and Wildlife; the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe; and the Suquamish Indian Tribe of the Port Madison Reservation.

The Trustees identified numerous potentially responsible parties for this contamination. This settlement does not represent the full amount of natural resource damages that the Trustees seek to recover from other responsible parties at this site.

This settlement is part of a series of early settlements with polluting parties for natural resource damages in the Lower Duwamish River. Recent settlements include: the Boeing Company (2010); the City of Seattle (2021); Vigor Industrial and Exxon Mobil Corp. (2021); and Lynden parties (2023). 

The Trustees continue negotiations with other potentially responsible parties with the goal of reaching settlements with other parties. If this occurs, the Trustees will lodge future consent decrees finalizing those settlements.

Additional information is available from this storymap.

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