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Environmental Stewardship News

Posted on: August 30, 2023

Marine Resources Committee & County Marine Program remove derelict creosote pier on San Juan Island

Environmental Stewardship

SAN JUAN COUNTY, WA August 30, 2023 – The San Juan County Marine Resources Committee (MRC) is working with the County’s Environmental Stewardship Marine Program to remove the derelict pier at Jackson Beach this fall. Construction is expected to begin in late September and last no more than a week. 

What to Expect

During the removal, Jackson Beach will remain open and accessible to the public. Removal efforts will take place during regular working hours and include the use of a barge and crane. While the area will remain open for commercial operators, kayak tours are encouraged to launch from further south along the beach.  

The derelict creosote pilings are the remains of the former gravel production operation which sourced gravel at what is now the LaFarge Open Space, located up from the beach.  The remaining piles were the support structures for a barge pier which was used for loading gravel onto commercial barges for transport to other locations. The gravel pit operations ceased in in the 1990s and the property was donated as public land. The former gravel pit is now managed by the San Juan Parks and Recreation District while the shoreline parcel is owned by San Juan County Public Works. The removal of the piles will not impact any ongoing business operations.

Why it is important to remove creosote: 

Creosote-treated wood pilings are a significant source of contamination to nearshore environments of the Salish Sea. As creosote leaches into the marine environment, it impacts forage fish spawning habitat, valuable eelgrass beds, and other nearshore habitats and species. Creosote vapors also pose a risk to human health. Removing creosote-treated material from the marine environment is a priority for the MRC and San Juan County.  

Removing creosote pilings will: Jackson Beach Creosote removal project_Frances Robertson

  • Remove a source of toxic hydrocarbon contamination to the nearshore environment, 
  • Improve water quality, 
  • Improve conditions for eelgrass habitat, 
  • Reduce toxins to forage fish, 
  • Protect and promote habitat for rearing juvenile salmon.

 “It is great to see this project finally coming to fruition,” said Dr. Megan Dethier, Director of University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories, and former MRC member. “Creosote has been used to prevent fouling and decomposition of surfaces in the marine realm for hundreds of years, and it is an effective poison – but not one that we want remaining in our nearshore environment, especially for structures that aren’t even needed any longer!” 

Project Background

The deconstruction and removal of the remaining pier structure is slated to occur before the end of October this year. This long-overdue project is possible thanks to a one-time grant of federal funds awarded by NOAA through the Northwest Straits Commission to the MRC. 

“The federal funds prioritized by Senator Patty Murray, are being used by local MRCs across the region, including the derelict pier removal at Jackson Beach, as we collectively work towards improving the marine environment said Lucas Hart, Director of the Northwest Straits Commission. “The 7 local County-based MRCs, Northwest Straits Commission and the Northwest Straits Foundation strive to empower local communities to be the leaders in protecting and restoring their marine environment, and local engagement is key to addressing the unique needs of each community,” said Hart. 

The removal of the piles will result in a significant improvement to the beach which is popular with residents and visitors to the island. Forage fish have been documented to spawn at the beach and eelgrass beds lie to the east of the pilings. The removal will benefit these important habitats and species, that are also vital to endangered salmon and Orca. 

“Ensuring clean and healthy marine waters is essential to our marine wildlife species and habitats, and especially for the recovery of endangered species” commented Christina Koons, Chair of the MRC and Orcas Island resident, “A vibrant marine ecosystem is also essential to the well-being of our island communities, as well as the regional economy.”  

Get Involved

The MRC and San Juan County also encourage you to report any creosote you find on the shoreline to WA Dept. Natural Resources using the MyCoast App. You can download the app from your app store or from the mycoast.org website and report large marine debris, creosote, king tides, and storm surge events. 

This project is being undertaken using Federal funds under award NA22NMF4690358 from NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce. To find more information about this project and other creosote removal projects being undertaken by the County, check out the Engage page dedicated to shoreline restoration work. (www.sjcmrc/projects). 

Contact: Frances Robertson, Marine Project Manager, francesr@sanjuanco.com

About San Juan County’s Department of Environmental Stewardship   

San Juan County’s Department of Environmental Stewardship is responsible for solid waste, marine resources, clean water, cultural resources, and climate and sustainability work.  The department offices are located at 1609 Beaverton Valley Road, Friday Harbor, WA 98250. For more information about San Juan County’s Department of Environmental Stewardship, visit www.sanjuanco.com/839/Environmental-Stewardship

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