Toxic barge removed from salmon estuary

The department of natural resources is removing an old barge from tidal flats on the peninsula.

The Department of Natural Resources is removing an old barge from tidal flats on the Peninsula.

"Wood, there's some real strong thick metal in here," said Department of Natural Resources Spokesman Joe Smilee.

A piece of history, someone parked the barge on the Dosewallips estuary in the 1950s. Since then, it's witnessed wildlife history that biologists are trying to reverse.

"This should look like everything around it, a gradual shore providing nice shallow water, maybe some channels meandering through it, vegetation growing in it," said Julian Sammons, a project manager at Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group.

Sammons knows the estuary is prime salmon habitat, but the barge keeps tidal water from rising high enough to protect the fish – or provide food. Plus, it's leeching a highly toxic chemical.

"It's like tar, you know on a telephone pole when you see that tar seeping out of it," Sammons said. "That's a type of creosote."

Creosote is the preservative used on the wood. It has dangerous effects on fish.

"It'll poison them basically, mutate them, keep them from growing," Smilee said.

Fish aren't the only ones who call this estuary home. Bald eagles, otters, and other wildlife point to the area's significance for habitat restoration.

"It might look like a relatively small footprint in this large estuary, but it's a half acre which is a substantial recovery," Sammons.

The project will cost $186,000. It's one of several barges removed every year; clearing history to build a better future.

Copyright 2016 KING


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