News Flash

County Executive

Posted on: September 15, 2014

State to remove derelict docks and pilings at Sunnyside, Chambers Creek Regional parks

Aerial view of the North Dock

Work is scheduled to begin Sept. 18 on a project to remove derelict pilings and two dilapidated docks located along the shoreline in Pierce County in an effort to restore intertidal and near-shore habitats and improve overall water quality.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will remove approximately 32 derelict creosote-treated pilings located in the tidelands at Sunnyside Beach Park in Steilacoom, as well as two dilapidated docks along the Chambers Creek Regional Park’s shoreline in University Place.

Creosote is a heavy, oily liquid made from coal tar or wood tar and used as a wood preservative. Creosote-treated materials leach chemicals into beach and marine sediments, creating toxic conditions for organisms living in and using these areas.

“The shallows along these beaches offer significant forage fish spawning habitat,” said Kristin Swenddal, DNR Aquatic Resources Division Manager. “Creosote has been found to negatively affect the survival rate of herring eggs, so we and our partners are working to remove as much creosote from Puget Sound ecosystems as possible. In addition, the old docks at this site are crumbling and pose a public safety risk.”

The work at Sunnyside Beach Park will begin Sept. 18, and is expected to be complete by the end of September. The beach will remain open during the project, although beach access will be restricted in the immediate area surrounding the work.

After the Sunnyside Beach Park work is complete, DNR will remove two creosote-treated docks, including pilings and associated concrete structures from the north and south dock areas located along the Chambers Creek Regional Park’s 2.5 mile-long beach. The two docks have 12,150-square-feet of decaying decking and close to 800 creosote and concrete pilings. Beach access will be restricted in the immediate area surrounding the work.

“We are excited to have these areas safe for the public and aquatic life,” said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. “Thanks to the hard work by Pierce County's legislative delegation in Olympia, the state set aside funding to nurture and protect our amazing shoreline.”

The south dock will be removed once the purple martin nesting season is over, which is typically in September. If purple martins are still present when the Steilacoom portion of the project is complete, the contractor will begin demolition of overwater structures at the north dock. On Oct. 1, the contractor will move to the south dock then up the shoreline to the north dock to complete the removal process there. The work is expected to be finished by Jan. 1, 2015. This timeline minimizes the impact on existing marine and avian habitats. The docks and pilings are located primarily on state-owned aquatic lands.

The two docks and associated pilings have degraded to the point that they have become a significant hazard to the environment as well as recreational and marine traffic around South Puget Sound. The unused structures block the natural movement of sediment and provide unwanted shading along the critical nearshore habitat. Removal of creosote helps restore intertidal and near shore habitats and improves overall water quality.

The estimated cost of Pierce County’s portion of the project is $2.5 million, which is funded by an appropriation in the Washington Legislature’s 2013-15 capital budget, to be administered through the Washington State Department of Ecology. DNR will use $1,711,200 for the removal of in-water pilings and docks. Pierce County will provide the remaining $788,800 for onshore cleanup work. The contractor for the project is Orion Marine Contractors, Inc.

DNR is leading efforts throughout Puget Sound to remove creosote-treated structures, pilings, and debris from Washington’s marine and estuarine waters. More information on this program is available here on the DNR website. Pierce County has posted project information at

In 2013, Pierce County removed approximately 200 derelict creosote pilings from Chambers Creek Regional Park after receiving $160,000 in grant funding provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program and administered by the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Water Quality Program.

Wynnae Wright, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, natural resource specialist
(206) 909-1304

Callene Abernathy, Pierce County Public Works and Utilities public information specialist
(253) 798-4661

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