Caring for our natural neighborhood... |
Nisqually Delta Association
see the Updates
History At Risk in Modern DuPont
The Nisqually Delta Association has, for twenty years now, been involved in trying to help honor and celebrate the regionally and nationally important historic sites of the Puget Sound.
While helping in the late 1990’s to cleanup a legacy of toxic wastes left by seventy years of explosive manufacture, NDA learned from some locals that the clean up plans threatened historic sites that had long been marked, but more recently neglected. NDA joined an effort to both preserve those sites, and promote a National Historic District.
The makings of a National Historic District exist in modern day DuPont, where nearly two-hundred years ago the first Europeans set up house on the shores of Puget Sound.
The First European Settlement on Puget Sound was near the Nisqually River Delta, at the mouth of Sequalitchew Creek, which runs through present day DuPont. In 1832, the Hudson Bay Company built a trading post, Nisqually House, adjacent to a Nisqually Tribal village there that had been occupied for thousands of years.
Later came Fort Nisqually, a more elaborate Hudson Bay Company facility. A few years later, a Nisqually Mission (1839), the first American Building north from the Columbia River, which was an official statement of United State’s expansion into the northwest. That ended up being the site of the first American School, Wedding, and Birth, along with a host of other “firsts”.
Today a proposal to build a warehouse on sites that have been memorialized for over a century is the heart of a dispute, and Nisqually Delta Association is backing a coalition of local history enthusiasts.
Find links here to the comment letter NDA provided in response to the SEPA action proposed to permit a warehouse on top of the Nisqually Mission site. Also find a host of documents representing the years of effort to promote a Nisqually-Sequalitchew National Historic District.
Welcome to the ethereal home of the Nisqually Delta Association. The Nisqually Delta Association, (NDA to her friends), was founded in 1970. Back then, the hot shoreline topics were a proposed shipping port on the Thurston County side of Nisqually Reach, and a proposed Shorelines Management Act (SMA). The SMA started as citizen's initiative, and passed into law in 1972. The shipping port was stopped when public outrage at the proposal motivated the County Commissioners to decide it was a bad idea.
NDA and the fight to SAVE NISQUALLY!
In the mid 1970's, the Nisqually Delta Association responded to a proposal to build a "super port" on the Pierce County side of the Nisqually Reach, along what by then was a "Shoreline of Statewide Significance", granted special protections by the SMA. Weyerhaeuser Corporation had announced plans to build an industrial port along that most significant shoreline, adjacent to what was then becoming a National Wildlife Refuge. Nisqually Delta Association harnessed the grassroots concern, and mounted a legal challenge when dock's permits came up for review.
That legal challenge started before the Shorelines Hearings Board (a body created by the SMA), and continued through the judicial system, all the way to State Supreme Court a dozen years later. It was a tough case, which the court couldn't settle on first review. On the second go round, the court allowed the dock, but restricted it's use to those disclosed in the Environmental Impact Statement. Both sides declared victory. In the end, that dock was never built.
Years later, (in the early 1990's), a new port facility was proposed, this time intending to ship gravel. Nisqually Delta Association again prepared to fight, and the sides again appeared before the Shorelines Hearings Board. This time both sides agreed to try and mediate a solution. That effort resulted in an award-winning plan to allow an industrial port, but move it off the "Shoreline of Statewide Significance", and a mile and a half further away from the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.
People on all sides of the issue hailed the Settlement Agreement in 1994 as win-win, that seemed to protect the environmental resources while allowing a potentially damaging industrial use nearby. Black Hills, Tahoma, Seattle and the National Audubon Society chapters, People for Puget Sound, Washington Environmental Council, and Friends of Anderson Island joined in settlement discussions, and in the end signed that historic "Settlement Agreement for Lone Star Northwest DuPont Project".
Today's News From Nisqually
Many believed the 1994 agreement, (which allowed a gravel loading dock over a mile further from the mouth of the Nisqually River), amounted to real victory in a struggle of more than two decades. Efforts to "Save Nisqually" seemed to have succeeded.
The Agreement reads in part: "Through the mediation sessions, a new vision for the DuPont shoreline has emerged, which if implemented, will end the long-standing disputes… It is the desire of the parties to reach a lasting settlement."
NOW, some thirteen years after that "Settlement Agreement" was signed, Glacier Northwest, the mining successor to Lone Star, produced an Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed mine expansion, and a "North Sequalitchew Creek Project"
Glacier's plan? Expand the mine permitted in 1994 to the east towards the City, and south into Sequalitchew Creek, as way to cheaply dewater the local aquifer. In return? A promise of a salmon stream somewhere in the future.
The dewatering threatens to shrink the Class I wetlands of Edmond's Marsh, on the upper Sequalitchew. The trenching to get there threatens to deform the canyon that once brought settlers from the banks of the Puget Sound up to Fort Nisqually on the prairie.
The banks of Sequalitchew Creek saw many "firsts" for Puget Sound's earliest European settlers. Those with an interest in preserving that history negotiated an agreement with Weyerhaeuser in 2001 to allow the eventual establishment of a National Historic District.
Sequalitchew Creek, long recognized as the most ecologically diverse plant and animal communities in the City of Dupont. Today Sequalitchew Canyon is the a keystone of a future park and historic district that might one day be a tourist destination.
The 1994 agreement pledged to keep the mine 200 feet from the shoreline of Puget Sound and Sequalitchew Creek. "[ O ]r within 100 feet of the top of the bank of Sequalitchew Creek." Or in a manner impacting the flow of Sequalitchew Creek.
Look at the shorelines of Nisqually Reach today, and recognize it is a landscape that would have been forever altered by industry were it not for the efforts of dedicated citizens. Today there is a new chance for citizens to lead towards a better plan.