Around 1892, Padden Creek was diverted into a brick tunnel to drain wetlands and surface water from the surrounding land in preparation for construction of the Great Northern Railroad in Fairhaven. The tunnel buried Padden Creek for nearly half a mile. The constricted flow of water in the tunnel created a fish passage barrier for salmon as well as flooding risks for nearby residents.
In 2015, City of Bellingham Public Works completed a major habitat restoration project on Padden Creek to help restore healthy water quality to our community for people, salmon, and wildlife. The project moved the creek out of an underground tunnel into a newly constructed channel, restoring 2,300 feet of Padden Creek to improve fish habitat and reduce flooding risks to 159 homes in the Happy Valley neighborhood.
Padden Creek: A Community Creek
Padden Creek Daylighting, Part One
Padden Creek Daylighting, Part Two
Daylighting Padden Creek not only opens up over a mile of upstream habitat and reduces flooding risks, it helps address unhealthy water quality currently found in Padden Creek. Padden Creek does not meet Clean Water Act standards for dissolved oxygen, temperature, or fecal coliform. The low water quality puts a strain on salmon, which need clean, cold, oxygenated water to survive in the creek. Restoration of this section of the creek adds shade to help cool high temperatures, provides bank stability via large woody debris structures and native plantings for clearer water, and creates natural turbulence from gravel and large woody debris that will foster increased oxygen levels.
For more information, please see the reference documents included below.