Floating Classroom: Duwamish River Tour

Port of Seattle 101 Tour Series: This tour included a floating classroom focused on the role of the Duwamish River.

Last month, I joined a like-minded group for a Port of Seattle community-education tour, this one down the five-mile-long Duwamish River. Still a work in progress, this Superfund site now supports a healthy salmon run, a multitude of bird life, seals and even sea lions. The tour showcased a real National Geographic turnaround – but you had to look beyond the remaining junkyards, container ships and industrial plants.

The two-hour tour attracted more than 200 folks including regional politicos, agency types, local residents, and a few storytellers, like me. (Here’s a link to an especially good article with great images published in the West Seattle Herald.) We set sail from Bell Harbor Marina Pier 66 aboard the Argosy Lady armed with sack lunches, cold beverages and engaging tour quizzes. The weather was perfect, the Seattle skyline was regal and the Sound glistened in the sunlight. Even if you thought you already knew everything about the role the river plays in our Port activities, it was still a perfect late-summer setting.

Here are a few highlights:

  • The area along the Duwamish represents 80 percent of Seattle’s industrial land, supports more than 80,000 jobs and has an annual payroll of $2.5 billion.
  • In addition to the jobs, the waterway provides critical fish and wildlife habitat and public shoreline use areas.
  • Historical industrial use of the area was extremely detrimental to the environment, but relentless and continual restoration and Superfund cleanup has been successful.

I’ve lived in other port cities, so I wasn’t surprised by the facts and figures that underscored the economic engine the Duwamish represents to our region. But I was surprised by the commitment by the Port and its stakeholders to reduce the area’s environmental footprint, grow jobs and become the greenest port in the country by following these strategies:

  • Conserve energy and increase use of renewables
  • Improve onsite storm water management systems
  • Reduce air pollutants and carbon emissions
  • Limit development and prevent sprawl
  • Restore and create 40 additional acres of natural habitat in the Green/Duwamish watershed and Elliott Bay

My primary goal was to learn about the greening of the Duwamish and witness for myself that anything is possible when you focus decades of passion, talent and money on a worthy goal.

NOTE: Another Port of Seattle tour is scheduled for October 10th, this time down the Ship Canal. For more information click here.

If you decide to attend one of the tours, please share your experiences with our readers. Bon Voyage — alex