First phase of Lower Wapato Creek habit site nears completion

Lower Wapato Creek

You may have noticed a striking new project taking shape on a piece of land along Highway 509, near Alexander Way, and wondered what is going on there. This piece of property, with its beautiful landscaping, trees, and meandering stream bed is the location of the Port of Tacoma’s new Lower Wapato Creek habitat restoration site.

Working in partnership with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and their Historic Preservation Office, the Port broke ground on the project in mid-2021. The Lower Wapato Creek site is an advance mitigation project and was specifically designed to restore fish and wetland habitat. The first phase of construction is expected to be complete next month. The second phase—planting native shrubs and trees, irrigation and perimeter fencingwill begin this summer and is  anticipated to be complete in spring 2023.  

Work done at this location included replacing fish-barrier culverts with a fish-passable full-span bridge that allows Wapato Creek to flow under 12th Street, helping adult and juvenile fish reach Commencement Bay. Wapato Creek was also relocated from a ditched system to a new stream channel flowing through the property, restoring a portion of the creek channel to its historic location and adding .36 miles of new stream channel. Now, as fish move down stream through the new creek section, they will have over ten acres of streams and estuary area adjacent to the creek where they can forage and feed on bugs.

Lower Wapato Creek aerial shot

Soon you will see approximately ten acres of wetlands surround the new creek channel, providing a variety of estuarine habitats surrounded by forested upland buffer, all designed to increase the diversity and density of fish and bird populations in the area. This type of habitat is very limited in urban areas and is a high priority for restoration within Commencement Bay.

“This site, in addition to the Port’s other habitat improvement efforts, further demonstrates the Port’s commitment and focus on enhancing the Puyallup River watershed and fisheries,” said Don Meyer, Port of Tacoma commission president. “Enhancing fish and wildlife habitat in urban areas, such as the Tideflats, is an important part of our environmental program.”

To date, the Port has turned 215 acres of land into habitat sites and open space, and invested more than $300 million in environmental programs, including remediating legacy contamination and restoring critical salmon habitat in the lower Puyallup River watershed.

For more details, including videos, on the Lower Wapato Creek project, please visit For details on all of the Port’s environmental programs, please visit