Fauntleroy Creek Culverts Replacement Program

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 (0.23 square mile) area, 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 program to replace two of the Fauntleroy Creek 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 SW culvert and associated fish ladder were built in the late 1990's and are not part of the current Fauntleroy Creek Culverts Replacement Program.

The 45th Ave SW Culvert Replacement Project is the first phase of this program. 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 California Ave SW Culvert Replacement Project is the second phase of this program. The culvert includes both the publicly owned roadway culvert and the adjacent privately owned culvert beneath the parking lot of Fauntleroy Church, United Church of Christ. SPU and the Fauntleroy Church are exploring potential options to replace the culvert.

The primary goal of these projects is to reduce the risk of culvert failure and the associated potential impacts to public safety and the environment. Additionally, restoring fish passage is a crucial part of supporting Tribal treaty rights, as well as promoting the environmental stewardship of the watershed.

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


The first culvert planned for 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.

The second culvert planned for replacement is located at California Ave SW (near Fauntleroy Church). 

What's happening now?

45th Ave SW Culvert Replacement:

This project is focused on designing the culvert replacement and the Fauntleroy Creek overlook area on 45th Ave SW. Thank you to everyone who shared their feedback through the survey and/or met with us in-person during the latest round of outreach. The project team is working on refining the design and incorporating community feedback to the extent feasible. To stay informed about upcoming engagement opportunities, please consider signing up for project email updates.

One possible design of the future Fauntleroy Creek overlook space.

California Ave SW Culvert Replacement:

SPU previously collected feedback from several community groups and completed a preliminary review of several design options for the replacement of the California Ave SW culvert. We are now moving forward with the option to replace the existing, deteriorated culvert with a new culvert structure and recommended alignment that supports the primary project goals.

With a preferred alignment option and in partnership with the Fauntleroy Church, the project is preparing to enter the early design phase. We are working to select and onboard a consultant design firm to design the project.

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

The project team is sharing information with and seeking input from adjacent property owners and residents, community groups, and the broader Fauntleroy neighborhood. Upcoming community engagement opportunities will be listed in the Meeting & Events section of this webpage. The project team 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

Construction could begin as early as 2027, pending input from our stakeholders and regulatory agencies, as well as completion of the project design and permitting processes. The design phase will begin in 2025, and we will keep the community informed as the schedule develops.

Existing culverts are barriers to fish passage

The culverts at 45th Ave SW and California Ave SW currently prevent fish from swimming upstream in Fauntleroy Creek. Fish access is especially important in the creek because of the high-quality habitat upstream. Despite being relatively small, the Fauntleroy Creek Watershed is in better condition than most of the City's urban streams.

SPU fish biologists, independent consultants, and biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have assessed the middle and upper reaches of Fauntleroy Creek and found them to be suitable habitats for fish. The middle and upper reaches of the creek have 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 fewer areas with poor-quality fish habitat and a lot with moderate-quality habitat that can be restored. It also has the lowest pre-spawn Coho salmon mortality of all our urban creeks.

Nearly all of the creek going up into Fauntleroy Park has been identified as "Type F" waters, meaning they support fish or have the potential to do so. New culverts on Type F waters need to meet state and federal requirements for fish passage, including the WDFW Stream Crossing Guidelines. Culverts need to be designed to allow fish to pass through easily, which likely requires constructing larger culverts.

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

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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.