The former site of a run-down hotel along the Duwamish River is now healthy habitat where young salmon can safely transition from freshwater to saltwater on their way to Puget Sound thanks to an innovative project led by the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks.
King County Executive Dow Constantine today toured a successful project along the Duwamish River where the Department of Natural Resources and Parks transformed dilapidated buildings in Tukwila into nearly 6 acres of habitat for young salmon and greenspace for nearby communities.
The new estuary, known as Chinook Wind, provides the complex, intertidal habitat young salmon need as they transition from freshwater to saltwater on their journey to Puget Sound. The project team included members of Green Start, a King County Jobs and Housing Program that offers ecological career opportunities to people experiencing homelessness.
Researchers at the University of Washington counted more than 700 juvenile salmon – including Chinook salmon preferred by southern resident orcas – at Chinook Wind during sampling they conducted from February through June, before crews planted native vegetation.
“What was once a run-down hotel surrounded by pavement is now habitat for young salmon and green space for local communities,” said Executive Constantine. “Our successful transformation at Chinook Wind is the result of innovative funding solutions, ingenuity by our employees, and a shared commitment to restoring the Duwamish River.”
The project was led by King County’s Water and Land Resources Division, which acquired the property in 2015. The team helped residents transition from the dilapidated hotel to safer housing before removing 250 tons of asbestos and 112,000 tons of soil, diverting 92 percent of demolition debris from the regional landfill.
The project team designed Chinook Wind to offer intertidal habitat that includes aquatic area, mudflats, low and high marsh, and native vegetation. It is deep enough to provide habitat during the entire rearing season, even during low tides.
The City of Tukwila will build a trail along the perimeter to connect the new estuary to Duwamish Gardens Park located upstream, providing greenspace access to nearby residents and employees who work in the area.
An innovative funding strategy creates a rare opportunity along the Duwamish River
The $16.6 million project was mostly funded by a reserve program the Department of Natural Resources and Parks established in 2012 so public and private organizations can offset unavoidable impacts to degraded wetlands.
Sound Transit contributed $13.7 million to the reserve program to offset its Link light rail construction in Federal Way and Sounder expansion from Tukwila to Auburn, with $11 million designated for Chinook Wind. The other funding sources included King County’s Conservation Futures program, the King County Parks Levy, and the City of Tukwila.
Aligning investments to produce better results faster for people, salmon, and orcas is a fundamental principle of Executive Constantine’s Clean Water Healthy Habitat initiative.
Steady progress to protect and restore the Green-Duwamish Watershed
Chinook Wind is the latest in a series of successes by King County and its partners to restore the Green-Duwamish Watershed that connects the Cascade foothills to Puget Sound:
- King County in 2022 completed čakwab, pronounced “chock-wob," a major floodplain restoration in the middle section of the Green River that simultaneously improved salmon habitat and reduced flood risks for homes, farms, roads, and infrastructure.
- Farther down river, the Water and Land Resources Division has protected farmland, making it more accessible to immigrant and refugee farmers to promote a dynamic, equitable local food economy.
- Where the Green River becomes the Duwamish River, King County and partner cities are protecting and restoring the last remaining greenspaces in the industrialized river corridor to offer more equitable access to open space and reduce stormwater pollution.
- Where the river flows through south Seattle, the Wastewater Treatment Division in 2022 activated the Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Station, a state-of-the-art facility that better protects the Duwamish River and Puget Sound from polluted stormwater during heavy rainfall.
- Where the Duwamish River flows into Elliott Bay, the Solid Waste Division removed a derelict dock and nearly 2,000 toxic-coated pilings from the Harbor Island shoreline.
- PHOTO GALLERY: Press briefing at Chinook Wind
- VIDEO: Full coverage of press briefing at Chinook Wind
- VIDEO: From asphalt to estuary along Duwamish River
- VIDEO: B-roll package of aerial footage of the project site
- TRACKS: An interactive map of environmental stewardship in King County
What was once a run-down hotel surrounded by pavement is now habitat for young salmon and green space for local communities. Our successful transformation at Chinook Wind is the result of innovative funding solutions, ingenuity by our employees, and a shared commitment to restoring the Duwamish River.
If the cleanup in the lower Duwamish is going to succeed – if we’re going to improve the health of the river, its fish, and its communities – then the next 30 years of progress in the Green-Duwamish must be filled with celebrations of projects like these…parking lots turned into parks, old outfall areas into new incubators for baby salmon, and hotels to habitat. EPA is thrilled to be here today to celebrate such innovative and necessary work. Keep 'em coming!
I’m so proud of King County’s work in creating this estuary for salmon and for providing a beautiful greenspace for our local communities. This creative and forward-thinking project goes a long way in our goal of restoring salmon habitats, conserving our local ecosystems, expanding greenspaces in King County, and restoring the Duwamish River. Thank you to everyone who made this possible.
Restoring the Green Duwamish system is vital for the survival and health of our iconic Chinook salmon. With this project, we have been able to reverse course on decades of development and harsh industrial uses in the area to rebuild critical habitat for wildlife and improve water quality for all.
Doug Williams, Department of Natural Resources and Parks, 206-477-4543