The Port of Tacoma wins award for cleaning, redeveloping and ecologically restoring a 133-acre site contaminated by local company

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‘s annual Phoenix Awards have reflected the progression of brownfield redevelopment over the past 20+ years by recognizing extraordinary practitioners and projects.

They are considered the “Oscars” of brownfields remediation and redevelopment.

I (Storm Cunningham) attended the very first National Brownfields Conference in Pittsburgh in 1996 when I was researching material for my first book, The Restoration Economy (published in 2002).

What was once a niche activity has grown into a practice area of its own with public, private, and nonprofit practitioners across the country focused solely on brownfields as an essential function of planning, economic development, environmental quality, and community development.

The 2023 Phoenix Awards were presented at the Brownfields 2023 conference in Detroit on August 9, 2023, sponsored by the Mannik & Smith Group.

The conference is managed by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

The awards are presented in two categories, one for people and the other for projects.

People Awards

  • Elliot Laws – Charlie Bartsch Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Cathy Barta – Linda Garczynski Brownfields Person of the Year
  • Rebecca Otte – State & Local Brownfield Leader
  • Trey Hess – Brownbreaker

Project Awards

  • National Award: Buffalo Color Park and Buffalo River (Buffalo, New York)
  • Brownfields & Infrastructure Award: Gordie Howe Bridge (Detroit, Michigan)
  • Small Community & Impact Award: Palouse Producers Brownfields Site (Palouse, Washington)
  • Region 1: Conley Terminal Modernization – Berth 10 (South Boston, Massachusetts)
  • Region 2: Buffalo Color Park and Buffalo River (Buffalo, New York)
  • Region 3: Carlisle Northwest Neighborhood “Big 3” Brownfields Area Wide Redevelopment (Carlisle, Pennsylvania)
  • Region 4: SeaPoint Industrial Terminal Complex (Savannah, Georgia)
  • Region 5: Electric Works West Campus (Fort Wayne, Indiana)
  • Region 6: First National Center Historic Restoration (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
  • Region 7: Jefferson Street Corridor (Waterloo, Iowa)
  • Region 8: Las Colonias (Grand Junction, Colorado)
  • Region 9: COMM22 (San Diego, California)
  • Region 10: Parcel 14 Cleanup and Redevelopment Project (Tacoma, Washington)

Let’s take a closer look at the award to the Port of Tacoma in Washington:

The award was for the cleanup and reuse of a 113-acre site at the port.

The Port was honored for remediating a Port-owned property known as Parcel 14, which is now home to an ecologically restored wetland, a high-tech regional logistics center, and a future highway interchange.

The Port received the award for EPA Region 10, which—besides Washington—also includes Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska.

Sarah Weeks, Project Manager II and Rob Healy, Senior Project Manager, Remediation hold the Phoenix award.

This project aligns directly with three of the priority areas in the Port’s strategic plan: environmental leadership, economic vitality, and community connections,” said Port of Tacoma Commission President Deanna Keller. “Congratulations to our hard-working Port staff on this well-deserved recognition.

Parcel 14 is located within the area known as the Tacoma Tideflats. From the 1970s through the early 2000s, it was used as a disposal site for dredge material and for log yard operations and storage.

The land was also used as an unauthorized dump site for slag from the former ASARCO smelter north of Tacoma, which infused high concentrations of arsenic in the soils.

Decades of urban development also re-routed Wapato Creek into narrow culverts on the property, which blocked fish passage.

The Port began assessment work in 2010 and eventually removed all contaminated soil.

Much of the site was remediated to levels more stringent than state and federal standards, and the portion of the property developed for habitat reached levels consistent with natural background conditions.

During cleanup, stormwater was managed to prevent any discharge from the site.

The cleanup allowed development of a Prologis regional logistics center with more than 1.3 million square feet of LEED-certified industrial buildings. The completed center created more than 1800 jobs.

Brownfield remediation also led to the construction of the Lower Wapato Creek habitat site, which the Port developed in partnership with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.

This project re-established stream and wetland habitat on approximately 20-acres, moving the creek from a ditched system to a meandering stream and replaced two fish-barrier culverts with a fish-passable full-span bridge.

The third phase of the project creates space for a future highway interchange, including stormwater management facilities. The interchange is part of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s SR167 completion project, which will improve connections to the Port of Tacoma.

Receiving this award is a tremendous honor,” said Rob Healy, Senior Manager for remediation at the Port of Tacoma. “I’d like to thank our partners at the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Prologis, and WSDOT for working with us on this important project.

The Port project team consisted of Dave Meyers as the overall project manager, Stanley Sasser and Rob Healy as cleanup leads, Mark Rettmann as permitting and habitat restoration lead, and Anita Fichthorn as the stormwater lead.

Photos courtesy of the Port of Tacoma.

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