Commencement Bay, Tacoma, Washington
Natural Resource Trustees
Site history: Chronic release of hazardous substances began in the 1920s and continues through the present.
Location: The nearshore area and waterways of Commencement Bay. Commencement Bay is the harbor for Tacoma, Washington, and is located at the southern end of Puget Sound.
Case status: Assessment ongoing. Restoration is being planned, implemented and monitored
Commencement Bay is the harbor for Tacoma,
Washington, located at the southern end of Puget Sound.
Beginning in the early 1900s, intertidal areas and tideflats
of the Puyallup River Delta were filled in and meandering
streams were channelized, resulting in the eight waterways
(Hylebos, Blair, Sitcum, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Middle,
Thea Foss, and Wheeler-Osgood) that lead into the Bay.
Industrial and commercial activities are
located on or adjacent to each of the waterways. They
include pulp and lumber mills, shipbuilding and ship
repair facilities, shipping docks, marinas, chlorine
and chemical production facilities, concrete production
facilities, aluminum smelting facilities, oil refineries,
food processing plants, automotive repair shops, railroad
operations, and numerous other storage, transportation,
and chemical manufacturing companies. Contaminants originate
from both point and nonpoint sources (Commencement
Bay Nearshore/Tideflats Record of Decision, U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, 1989).
The nearshore area and waterways of Commencement
Bay are used extensively as rearing and feeding
habitat by numerous marine species, and the Bay
serves as a migratory pathway for salmonids. Many
fish species feed on small epibenthic and benthic
organisms before migrating offshore. The Trustees’
concerns about the Commencement Bay area involve
the adverse effects to trust resources resulting
from the contaminated sediments and releases of
hazardous substances in the Bay and its waterways.