Monitored Natural Recovery and Dredging Decision Analysis at Bellingham Bay, Washington

by Clay Patmont,
Chip Hilarides,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Dredging '02: Key Technologies for Global Prosperity


The Whatcom Waterway Site, located within inner Bellingham Bay, Washington consists of intertidal and subtidal aquatic lands within and adjacent to the Whatcom Waterway in Bellingham, Washington. Georgia-Pacific and the Washington Department of Ecology completed a detailed Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement of the Whatcom Waterway Site in 2001, which provides data, analysis, and evaluations to inform selection of a sediment cleanup action alternative that is protective of human health and the environment and considers local site development plans. A key element of the evaluation is the detailed analysis of sediment natural recovery, which consists of five broad elements: 1) Verification of the effectiveness of source control actions; 2) Characterization of sediment fate and transport processes; 3) Documentation of the historical record of declining sediment concentrations; 4) Documentation of biological recovery; and 5) Development of a reliable model to forecast future changes in sediment quality. The analysis reveals that surface sediments and associated biological resources throughout nearly all of the Whatcom Waterway Site have now recovered to levels that are protective of human health and the environment, even though subsurface accumulations of contaminants are buried at depth within the sediments, including within a federal navigation channel. However, land use and site development plans may potentially require future dredging of the federal channel, which would pose risks to the environment during and following the dredging action. The monitored natural recovery evaluation, along with other related analyses, helps clarify for the regulatory agencies and stakeholders the tradeoffs between different sediment remediation options, and differentiated cleanup versus development .drivers. for dredging. These evaluations, in turn, have led to development of a consensus-based Comprehensive Strategy for integrated remediation, development, and habitat restoration actions within the Whatcom Waterway Site, which includes dredging of much of the navigation channel. Key to the success of the Comprehensive Strategy is the integration of navigation channel maintenance funding, and other potential authorities, through the federal Water Resources Development Act.

Subject Headings: Sediment | Site investigation | Dredging | Waterways | Public health and safety | Navigation (waterway) | Federal government | Washington | United States

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