We swim the Duwamish!

person in scuba gear in a river

Regional Director Josh Baldi swims the Duwamish.

Josh Baldi knows how to get into the Duwamish River: Don a wet suit, because it’s chilly; drift and swim with the flow; and, watch the pink salmon jump all around you.

The director of Ecology’s Northwest Region (Kitsap, King and counties north) donned the suit and slid into the water this week. He joined Mark Powell, who heads the Washington Environmental Council’s People for Puget Sound Program, in “Swim Duwamish.”

Powell, alone and sometimes with guests, has been swimming the entire 85-mile length of the Green and Duwamish rivers a few miles at a time since last month. The swims are part of a campaign to draw attention to efforts – both under way and still needed – to restore and protect the river that begins in the Cascades as the Green and empties into Seattle’s Elliott Bay as the Duwamish. (The name changes in Tukwila.)

Swimming with the fishes

stormwater drain above a part of a river, showing treed shoreline above drain.

Hundreds of stormwater drains enter the river.

“This was a fun way to get immersed with our work to clean up and restore Seattle’s only river,” said Baldi. “Parts of the river are coming alive with restoration projects, and we saw several. The pinks were jumping on their spawning run, and one nearly hit me in the face!”

The swim began at the King County/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers North Wind’s Weir restoration site in Tukwila and carried the swimmers more than two miles to the South Park Bridge.

“We got a lot of looks and waves from people on docks and riverside trails,” Baldi added. “And we saw several pipes that feed stormwater into the river. That’s one of the concerns and challenges we face.”

The basin covers and drains mountain forests and descends through agricultural, suburban and industrial landscapes. The last five miles, the Lower Duwamish Waterway, is a Superfund cleanup site, overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and supported by Ecology.

Superfund partners

view of old pier logs sticking out of a river

A unique view from mid-stream.

Ecology is currently cleaning up more than twenty contaminated sites along the Duwamish. We work with public and private partners to control sources of pollution through cleanup, clean water and hazardous waste laws. Local governments are using Ecology grant funds to restore more than 60 acres of salmon habitat, improve flood protection, preserve farmland and increase recreational trails along the Green River.

Local governments play a critical role through their stormwater programs in all parts of the state, and this is especially so in all parts of the Green-Duwamish system.

Ecology’s website offers details and links to information about the basin and the many efforts to restore and enhance its waters.