OLYMPIA - The Port of Olympia commission has taken its first steps toward restoring Mission Creek into a salmon-bearing stream, a decision long awaited by people who live near the creek on East Bay Drive.
Although no formal action was taken on the decision at the commission’s special meeting this week, it was endorsed by the commission Thursday and likely will receive its approval at some point.
Up next, the port will apply to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for grant funds, determine the scope and cost of the project and hopefully begin work in the first quarter of 2012, Executive Director Ed Galligan said. The cost of the project likely is more than $200,000, he said.
Mission Creek is a nearly two-mile stream that originates in northeast Olympia, then winds its way down and through a part of Priest Point Park and under East Bay Drive before it empties into Budd Inlet. The challenge with the creek today is that salmon can’t negotiate a section of it because of a pipe through a dike that is too steep for them to climb, said Fred Adair, a longtime East Bay Drive resident and a member of the East Bay Drive Neighborhood Association. Changes to the creek could make it more of a free-flowing waterway and result in a better estuary, he said.
The creek property is owned by the city, but the port is in charge of mitigation, Galligan explained at the meeting.
East Bay Drive Neighborhood Association President Richard Wolf, also a supporter of the project, said the Mission Creek restoration efforts have been on the group’s radar for as long as he has been president, about five years. Members even are prepared to volunteer their time toward the effort, picking up shovels to help out, he said.
“I’m really pleased that the port is moving forward with it,” Wolf said. “It’s good for Budd Inlet. It’s good for salmon recovery and the whole community. It has been an effort to get them there,” he said about the port, “but I’m glad they saw fit to do it.”
The commission largely supported the project at its Thursday meeting, with Commissioner Bill McGregor calling it a “feel-good” moment for the port.
“We’re standing before the community and saying we’re doing it for the betterment of Budd Inlet,” he said. “I certainly support doing it.”
Commissioner Jeff Davis, though, questioned whether the port’s investment in the project would be worthwhile in the end.
“Everything that this project implies, we do already,” he said, pointing out that the port is a good environmental steward. “What more do we get out of this?”
But McGregor emphasized that this particular project was not about a return on the port’s investment.
“This is an opportunity for us to be a lead agency in moving this project forward,” he said. “Let’s get the project going, because it’s been on the books for a long time. It’s a small project, but the impact to the community is large.”
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/bizblog