Port of Tacoma
Date of Interview
This interviewee presents environmental justice as the fair distribution of environmental benefits. To ensure this, he believes it is important for communities to engage in restoration projects that can remediate environmental contamination and pollution. For examples, he cites several projects the Port of Tacoma is managing around the Commencement Bay area. According to the interviewee, these projects will turn degraded spaces into healthy habitats capable of supporting vibrant social and economic activities. The interviewee stresses that mitigation is an important part of industrial growth, for it ensures that adequate habitat is left intact for wildlife and human enjoyment. His approach to environmental justice focuses on both anthropocentric and environmental stewardship concerns, stressing that consideration for one reinforces the other.
Jordan, Jason, "Jason Jordan Interview" (2013). Puget Sound Environmental Justice Interviews. 17.
Additional FilesJordan_Transcript.docx (24 kB)
Noah Park: Please state your name and organizational affiliation.
Jason Jordan: My name is Jason Jordan and I am the director of Environmental Programs here for the Port of Tacoma. The Port of the Tacoma is here in the tide flats; we have three main waterways. We have the Blair Waterway which is our international container waterway. It’s where most of our container terminals are located. We have the Hylebos Waterway, and then we have the Sitcom Waterway. And just for reference, this is the Puyallup River here. A big part of what the Port of Tacoma does is habitat restoration.
Like I mentioned, we spent over $150 million cleaning up Commencement Bay. Most recently, we created a 30-acre habitat site here, known as Place of Circling Waters, which is pretty special. We created some inter-tidal salt marsh and emergent wetlands. Interestingly enough, we work closely with the Puyallup Tribe Indians. There was a Native American artifact discovered there; it was an arrowhead. We worked closely with them and presented it back to them, and they actually helped us name the site.
Currently, for 2014, we’ve got two big habitat restoration projects planned. This is referred to as Parcel 14, this is Wapato Creek. We’re going to be meandering Wapato Creek through here. There’s a fish passage barrier underneath the street here that we plan to fix and change the elevation on a culvert for. Just off the map, we do a lot of work off the Puyallup River, and specifically Clear Creek, we’ve got another 60+acre habitat site planned that we’re working on that will be under construction in 2014.
With respects to existing projects, we’ve got our Gogleheidy mitigation site here, which is G1 and G2, and in the middle that is available for future mitigation. This is a former city landfill, so it was a contaminated site, so as we created the habitat we actually partnered with the City of Tacoma and others to remove the contamination from the landfill. You’ll see a series of mud flats here along the Hylebos Waterway that we partnered with the Puyallup Tribe. This is juvenile salmon habitat. Another one referred to Salt Chuck that we’re planning in the future, so lots of opportunities and good projects on the ground.
You’ll see here, another mitigation site. This is our site off of the Sitcom Waterway that we’ve built. We like to refer to it as softening the edges where we recognize a lot of salmon activity in Commencement Bay, primarily utilizing the Puyallup River. Near the ends of our wharf structures, we’ve built mitigation sites for the juvenile salmon to rest.
Our port, in terms of tonnage, or capacity throughput, is at about 2million TEU for the port. TEU’s are the twenty-foot equivalence units. We are fourth or fifth biggest port on the west coast, with the ports in southern California being the biggest at just about ten to twelve million TEUs. So it’s a busy place, we are planning to grow and we’ve got a strategic plan. We plan to clean up an additional 200 acres of upland property in the next ten years and put those back into productive use. We are working closely with storm water impacts, and are developing some new industrial techniques to deal with storm water, since it is a big issue for us in Washington. The other things we work closely on are the air issues. We’ve developed Northwest Port’s Clean Air Strategy that involves working with the Port of Seattle to our north, and Port Metro, Vancouver, where we’ve developed some strategies to reduce our emissions, and we’re planning to reduce our diesel particulate emissions by 85% by 2020.
NP: What is environmental justice?
JJ: Environmental justice, in its basic sense, is fair distribution of environmental benefits. It is stemmed from a concern that some of the disadvantaged communities weren’t seeing their fair share of environmental benefits distributed in their communities. I think that led to this notion of environmental justice that’s been used, and legal opinions throughout the country. I think it’s really boiled down to where we live, work, and play, and making sure that environmental benefits occur throughout that area.
NP: How does, or doesn’t, environmental justice work in your community? What needs to change?
JJ: From the Port of Tacoma’s perspective, we are somewhat geographically isolated in terms of where the port is located, and what is referred to as the tide flats here in Tacoma. We focus a lot on environmental restoration. We’ve spent over $150 million cleaning up Commencement Bay, and its tributary waterways, particularly on the lower water shed, so it’s really a part of what we do here at the port – cleaning up waterways, contaminated sediments, upland properties and putting them back into use. There’s a lot of historic contamination from previous industrial practice, and our port has really leveraged public and private dollars to take opportunities to clean up those properties and put them back into productive use. What I mean by that is we can take a dilapidated or feral property that’s not generating any economic income for anyone, and clean it up and put it back on the market and then create jobs which is pretty special as part of the economic engine for the region.
The other thing we do is habitat mitigation sites, so when we develop a new property, such as a pier or terminal, we are responsible for mitigating any impact associated with that such as over water coverage impact, shading impacts, or displacement of our impacts to priority habitat – Endangered Species Act – things like salmon. So we’re responsible for mitigating those impacts, so we look where we live, work, and play here in Commencement Bay, and look to do mitigation that in fact creates better habitat, and we’ve got several examples in the tide flats where we’ve built habitat mitigation that’s good for both birds and aquatic wildlife, and the other thing we’ve done is combine it with public access. People can literally cross the street and see a working waterfront, heavy industrialized port, where you can see cargo moving from a vessel onto a truck, or put onto a train. On the other side of the street, you can see some pretty special habitat, which we’re proud of at the Port of Tacoma. It’s really about being a good steward of the environment – that’s really what we do here, and part of our mission, not only being an economic engine, but also being a good steward, which you can see in a lot of different ways.
NP: What parts of environmental justice are important to you? Why, or why not?
JJ: Again, from the Port’s perspective, it’s about creating habitat where we live, work, and play, but also benefitting the entire region when we create mitigation or a habitat, it’s so that benefits all of Puget Sound, and Commencement Bay specifically, so that’s really important. There’s no one part of environmental justice that’s more important than the rest. It’s about being responsible stewards of the environment, and the Port of Tacoma does a nice job of demonstrating that behavior.
NP: How does concern for the environment fit in with other environmental justice concerns? Sustainability? Health? Nature?
JJ: They all go hand in hand, so when we act as good stewards of the environment, what we’re doing in a sense is making sure that those natural resources will remain in perpetuity for our community. When we recognize that if our developments will create an impact, we mitigate those impacts, and the way the regulatory structure is set up, we actually leave the environment in better shape than when we original got it, because it might have already been slightly compromised, and what we create and return for that is above and beyond the standard requirements in terms of acreage, and endangered species. It’s all in one package in terms of our commitment to the environment and being a good steward to the environment.
NP: In your opinion, how is environment justice useful in addressing issues in your community, and how might others be able to help?
JJ: Again, we think of our community as all of Commencement Bay – it is what the Port of about – when we take on a particular environmental stewardship project, whether it’s cleaning up contaminated property or building ESA habitat, it’s really to the benefit of all Commencement Bay, and Puget Sound.