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Seattle Waves Tourists Goodbye, Returns To Building Seawall

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KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols
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As we bid the tourists adieu, we welcome back the cranes and construction.

Season 2 of Seattle’s waterfront development project starts Wednesday. It includes work from Colman Dock to the Aquarium, and holes in the ground already show the concrete face of the 1930s-era seawall, soon to be demolished. 

"The seawall’s a big retaining wall. It’s holding back all the dirt that’s in Alaskan Way,” explained Jessica Murphy, Seattle Department of Transportation’s project manager for the seawall.

Workers have already pounded a solid sheet of metal in front of the old seawall, to keep demolition debris from Puget Sound. Once the road is gone, they’ll demolish the old seawall's concrete face and firm up the mud between the old wood pilings by injecting it with grout. 

They’ll pour a massive concrete slab on top of that. Then they’ll cover it all up.

"We really are building the foundation of our future waterfront," Murphy said.

The foundation is all underground. But there is one part of the proposed waterfront promenade that you will see. Part of the seawall structure includes glass panels that allow light to transmit to the water below. It’s part of a habitat enhancement project.

Before the seawall was built, there was a gentle shore there. Salmon came to feed. But right now, the water is deep and dark – bad for salmon habitat.

"We’re doing a number of things to restore some of that lost habitat," Murphy said, "including creating some shallower water next to the seawall. Allowing light to get down there that promotes plant growth." 

Those plants are home to things salmon like to eat.

Workers will also build a shallow beach for the salmon at the south end of the project. That way, "when they come out of the Duwamish, they can find safe haven in shallower waters where they’re a little safer from predation," Murphy said.

The middle section of the seawall should be finished by next summer’s tourist season. So far the seawall is on time and under budget. Work on the third and final section begins next fall.

Wandering down the waterfront, one can observe other stages of the seawall construction project. "Season 1" includes the work South of Colman Dock, which is still underway.

Season 3, the northernmost portion, begins next fall and continues until the project is finished in mid-2016.

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