Fauntleroy Creek Culverts Replacement Project (45th Ave SW)

Photo of spawning salmon in Fauntleroy Creek
Spawning salmon in Fauntleroy Creek (photo courtesy of Whitney Fraser).

Project description

Supporting a healthy urban watershed in your neighborhood.

Fauntleroy Creek is in southwest Seattle. The creek drains a 149-acre area (0.23 square mile), called the Fauntleroy Watershed, into Puget Sound.

There are three culverts on Fauntleroy Creek: a lower culvert at Fauntleroy Way SW, a middle culvert at 45th Ave SW, and an upper culvert at California Ave SW. A culvert is a pipe or other structure that conveys water under a roadway. SPU is implementing a phased project to replace two of these culverts, those at 45th Ave SW and at California Ave SW. Due to the condition and age of the culverts, repairing them is not a viable strategy. The Fauntleroy Way culvert and associated fish ladder were built in the late 1990's and are not part of the Fauntleroy Creek Culverts Replacement project.

The 45th Ave SW culvert is the immediate focus of this project. SPU prioritizes culvert projects based on the likelihood and consequences of culvert failure. Each culvert is evaluated using various criteria, including impacts on the environment, fish passage, traffic, and community, as well as operations and maintenance. Through this evaluation process, SPU has identified the public roadway culvert at 45th Ave SW as the highest priority for replacement. SPU is committed to proactively replacing this culvert to reduce the risk of failure and mitigate storm-related flooding.

The primary goal of the project is to reduce the risk of culvert failure and the associated potential impacts to health, public safety, and the environment. Restoring fish passage is also a crucial part of supporting Tribal treaty rights.

SPU is also working on a plan for replacing the culvert at California Ave SW after the 45th Ave SW culvert. The California Ave SW culvert includes both the publicly owned roadway culvert and a privately owned culvert beneath the parking lot of Fauntleroy Church, United Church of Christ. SPU and the Church are exploring potential work on the culvert.

SPU continues to investigate creek, drainage, sediment, utility, or other infrastructure issues within the Fauntleroy Creek drainage basin that may be addressed through this or other projects.

Location

The culvert for immediate replacement is located at 45th Ave SW (near SW Wildwood Pl). 

map of area around Fauntleroy Creek showing culvert under 45th St SW, and noting location of Wildwood Glen, Wildwood Market and Eatery, and The Hall at Fauntleroy.

What's happening now?

The project is focused on designing the culvert replacement and the Fauntleroy Creek overlook area on 45th Ave SW. To learn about the latest project updates and to share your thoughts, please join us for a Design Drop-in session on Saturday, March 9 from 10 am to 1 pm at the corner of 45th Ave SW and SW Wildwood Pl. Additionally, you can share your feedback on the project via a survey March 4 – March 22 (check this webpage for a link to the survey then)!

Community input gathered during March 2024 outreach, along with technical considerations, will inform the final design.

Community benefits

In addition to reducing risk of culvert failure and associated impacts, the replacement of aging culverts offers multiple benefits to local neighborhoods, including:

  • Improving creek resiliency to higher flows from anticipated climate change
  • Restoring fish passage, which supports Tribal treaty rights and SPU's commitment to racial and social justice
  • Considering community safety in culvert design
  • Enhancing the community's connection to the Fauntleroy Creek Watershed
  • Providing safer working conditions for SPU maintenance crews

    Community engagement

    We are engaging with the community in multiple ways. We are sharing information and seeking input from adjacent property owners and residents, community groups, and the broader neighborhood. Upcoming community engagement opportunities will be listed in the Meeting & Events section of this webpage. We will continue to seek community feedback to inform the design phase of the project.

    Please subscribe to the project email list to receive updates about the project and stay informed about opportunities to share your input.

    • Early Design and Planning: 2018 – 2023
    • Mid Design: 2023 – 2024
    • Final Design: 2024 – 2025
    • Construction: 2026 – 2027

    Existing culverts are barriers to fish passage

    The culverts at 45th Avenue SW and California Avenue SW prevent fish passage in Fauntleroy Creek. In replacing its public culverts, SPU is removing barriers that prevent fish from accessing upstream habitat. Stream conditions in the middle and upper reaches of Fauntleroy Creek have been characterized as viable fish habitats by SPU fish biologists, independent consultants, and biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

    While relatively small, the Fauntleroy Creek Watershed is in a healthier condition than most of the City's urban streams — it has good water quality, ample forest canopy cover, the protection of City ownership for most of its area, and excellent community stewardship. Compared to other watersheds in Seattle, Fauntleroy Creek has low levels of poor-quality fish habitat and a lot of moderate quality habitat that can be restored. It also has the lowest pre-spawn Coho salmon mortality of all our urban creeks, which is a strong indication of good water quality.
     
    Based on stream surveys, nearly all of the mainstem of the creek up into Fauntleroy Park was identified as "Type F" waters (this means fish-bearing or capable of supporting fish.) New culverts on Type F waters need to be designed to meet state and federal requirements for fish passage. The new culverts would be sized based on WDFW Stream Crossing Guidelines to meet fish passage criteria, which will likely require a larger size for the culvert replacements. 

    Restoring fish passage is critical to support Tribal treaty rights

    U.S. Supreme Court decisions and federal law have consistently affirmed the validity of the Treaty of Point Elliott (and other relevant treaties, collectively referred to as the Stevens Treaties) and associated Tribal treaty rights to hunt and fish in usual and accustomed areas.

    Tribes ceded their lands in exchange for rights to take fish, which carried the implied promise the U.S. government would not significantly degrade the resource. The Stevens Treaties impose a duty upon the State—including its municipal corporations—to refrain from constructing or maintaining culverts that block passage of fish to or from Tribes’ usual and accustomed fishing places.

    Culverts impeding fish passage to fish habitat violate Tribal treaty rights. As a public agency, SPU is committed to restoring fish passage and supporting Tribal rights and regional salmon recovery.

    This project was paid for in part by the King County Flood Control District. 

    King County Flood Control District logo

    Public Utilities

    Andrew Lee, General Manager and CEO
    Address: 700 5th Avenue, Suite 4900, Seattle, WA, 98104
    Mailing Address: PO Box 34018, Seattle, WA, 98124-5177
    Phone: (206) 684-3000
    SPUCustomerService@seattle.gov

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    Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is comprised of three major direct-service providing utilities: the Water Utility, the Drainage and Wastewater Utility, and the Solid Waste Utility.