Port receives approval for first environmental mitigation bank

The Port of Tacoma’s Upper Clear Creek Mitigation Bank, designed to offset adverse impacts to salmon and wetland habitat from development, received final approval on June 24 from the state Department of Ecology (Ecology), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

The Upper Clear Creek Mitigation Bank is the Port’s first mitigation bank, the first of its kind in the Puyallup River watershed, and only the second joint wetland and fish conservation bank in Washington state.

The Upper Clear Creek Mitigation Site construction was completed in 2016 and combines the 28.64-acre mitigation bank to another 12.59-acre Port-owned mitigation project, creating more than 41 acres of contiguous restored habitat in the Clear Creek floodplain with the option for future expansion. Clear Creek is the Puyallup River’s last freshwater tributary before entering Puget Sound’s Commencement Bay. The waterbody is vital habitat for migrating salmonids.

“With more than 30 years of building habitat mitigation sites, the Port of Tacoma is thrilled to see our proactive efforts blossom,” said Port Commission President John McCarthy. “The success of the Upper Clear Creek Mitigation Site is further testament to our environmental commitment and a great example of how the vision laid out in the Puyallup Land Claims Settlement continues to inform the Port’s restoration efforts. Furthermore, the certified mitigation bank will allow the Port to invest in future infrastructure projects more efficiently and responsibly to support our region’s economy.” 

The Port built the mitigation bank to generate or “bank” wetland and fish habitat credits in advance of development projects. The wetland and fish habitat credits may be used to offset unavoidable impacts to wetlands or fish habitat from projects after going through environmental and permitting review. The credits may be used as compensation for future Port development projects, to support developmental partners’ projects, or to sell on an open market.

The mitigation bank is expected to generate 12.56 wetland acre-credits and at least 273.16 fish habitat credits. Starting later this year, credits are expected to be released over a 10-year period as the bank meets performance standards established by the Interagency Review Team (IRT), co-chaired by the Corps and Ecology. IRT members represent NMFS and other federal, tribal, state, and local stakeholders. 

The Port of Tacoma has invested more than $300 million in environmental programs, including remediating legacy contamination and restoring critical salmon habitat in the lower Puyallup River watershed.

To learn more about mitigation banks, information can be found on Ecology’s website. Learn more about the Port’s habitat restoration program here

About the Port of Tacoma 

The Port of Tacoma is an economic engine for South Puget Sound. More than 29,000 jobs are generated by port activity, which also provides $195 million per year in state and local taxes to support education, roads, and police and fire protection for our community. As a partner in The Northwest Seaport Alliance, the Port of Tacoma is also a major cargo gateway to Asia and Alaska.