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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: City Completes Seawall Test Habitat

3/25/2008  3:25:00 PM

City Completes Seawall Test Habitat
SDOT and University of Washington begin trailblazing marine wildlife study

SEATTLE - The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced today the installation of seawall habitat test panels and troughs along the Elliott Bay waterfront and the start of a two-year marine research study. This trailblazing project, by SDOT and the University of Washington, will research ways to improve urban shorelines and create an Alaskan Way Seawall replacement that enhances the marine ecosystem.

By determining which seawall panel and trough best protect and promote oceanic wildlife, this joint venture by the city and the university will be the first of its kind. Although a significant amount of scientific data exist about artificial reefs, almost no information is available about vertical seawalls and their impact. Improving habitat and water quality through science is the basis of Mayor Nickels’ Restore Our Waters initiative.

“As a city by the sea, Seattle has a vested interest in safeguarding the aquatic ecosystem,” said SDOT Director Grace Crunican. “As we create a new Alaskan Way Seawall to protect our coastline, we must do so in a way that protects the marine environment as well. This joint research effort by the city of Seattle and the University of Washington will help design a seawall that allows both the city and marine wildlife to flourish.”

SDOT installed 18 panels and nine troughs along the city’s current seawall. The panels are clustered in groups of six at three locations: at Clay Street, between piers 67 and 69, and between pier 62 and the Seattle Aquarium. The troughs extend along the seawall’s base and are located between piers 67 and 69, between pier 62 and the Seattle Aquarium, and north of pier 59.

The University of Washington, led by Jeff Cordell, Ph.D., principal research scientist, will document marine life over a two-year period to measure the effectiveness of the habitat panels and troughs. Once a long-term solution has been determined for the central waterfront, SDOT will use the study’s findings to design a seawall that both supports the needs of the city and better sustains marine life.

The panels are intended to simulate naturally occurring habitats that support marine life, such as young salmon. SDOT and the University of Washington designed them in three different configurations to help determine the most beneficial shape. The shapes are flat, stepped (wedge) and sloping (fin). Each shape also comes in two different surface textures, raised concrete that mimics natural rock or rough concrete, to assess the impact of panel texture on sea life.

The troughs mimic shallow water, soft sediment habitats that have largely been lost along the Seattle shoreline. The steel troughs are oval shaped and filled with rock of various sizes. Research will assess whether they have the ability to encourage additional marine life and trap sediment and organic matter.

Funds for the habit installation and the two-year study have been provided through grants from the King Conservation District and the Washington Sea Grant, and by SDOT.

The Seattle Department of Transportation builds, maintains and operates Seattle's $8 billion transportation infrastructure. To further Mayor Nickels’ goal to get Seattle moving, the department manages short- and long-term investments in streets, bridges, pavement and trees, that better connect the city with the region.

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Seattle Department of Transportation

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