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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


June 15, 2005
Contact: Craig Bartlett, WDFW (360) 902-2259
Greg Fisher, NRCS, (360) 704-7758
Colin Newell, WSDOT, (360) 740-8603
Doug Zimmer, USFWS, (360) 753-4370

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Meeting set on Willapa estuary restoration as contractors prepare to break ground

OLYMPIA – With groundbreaking set for mid-July, partners in an effort to restore a portion of the Willapa Bay estuary for fish and wildlife have scheduled an open house to provide area residents with an update on the project before work gets under way.

The public open house, the fourth since 2001, is scheduled from 3-7 p.m. June 30 at the Willapa Harbor Chamber of Commerce Community Center, 916 West First St., in South Bend.

No formal presentations are planned, but representatives of all agencies and organizations involved in the project will be available to discuss issues ranging from roadwork scheduled on U.S. 101 near South Bend to a design change based on a new study of area mosquitoes.

Sponsors include the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited.

Scarsella Brothers, a contracting firm based in Seattle, was selected by WSDOT this month for highway work associated with the restoration project.

“After five years of planning and consultation, we’re finally ready to break ground,” said Sue Patnude, WDFW regional director. “First, though, we want to give area residents an update on the project and provide answers to any questions they may have.”

The $5.9 million restoration project, scheduled for completion in the fall of 2006, involves converting 300 acres of diked pastureland owned by WDFW back into a tidal estuary. Another 100 acres of wetlands on the upland side of U.S. 101 will be re-contoured to improve habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.

Once restored, the project area will provide critical habitat for salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout and a variety of other fish and wildlife species, said Greg Fisher, NRCS resource conservationist.
Key elements of the project scheduled for completion this summer include:

  • Roadwork: A one-mile section of U.S. 101 that crosses the property about one mile south of Sound Bend will be raised three feet in preparation for the removal of two miles of diking along the Willapa River in 2006. The existing stormwater runoff system will be improved, and a highway pull-off with parking for up to five vehicles will also be completed this summer as part of the highway construction project.
  • Cross-dikes: A cross-dike will be built this summer to provide protection from high tides to adjacent properties.
  • Upland wetlands: Habitat improvements, including excavation of three freshwater ponds, will be made for waterfowl and other wildlife on 100 acres of land WDFW owns on the upland side of U.S. 101.

Colin Newell, WSDOT assistant area engineer, said his department will complete all roadwork by summer’s end, with lane closures primarily confined to weekdays.

“WSDOT has been looking at raising that section of the highway above the 100-year flood mark for some time,” Newell said. “The plan to restore the estuary brought the project to the front of the line.”

Fisher said current plans for the restoration project are much the same as they were in 2003, when the initial design was altered in response to community concerns. One exception is that the final design no longer includes freshwater ponds for frogs and salamanders on the upland side of the highway.

That element of project was dropped due to the findings of a mosquito study completed in May by Battelle Marine Sciences Laboratory, Fisher said.

“We commissioned the study to examine the potential impact of the project on the local mosquito population,” Fisher said. “The study indicated the amphibian ponds could be a problem, so we dropped them from the project.”

Fisher noted that the study also concluded that opening 300 acres of diked land to saltwater inundation will likely reduce the mosquito population in the project area. To prevent infestation of the waterfowl ponds, Patnude said WDFW will monitor mosquito larvae beginning in the spring of 2006 and drain the ponds as necessary.

“We want this project to benefit the local community as well as fish and wildlife populations,” said Patnude at WDFW. “One of those benefits should be a reduction in mosquitoes.”

Battelle’s study of the implications of the Willapa Bay estuary project on local mosquito populations will be posted on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at http://www.nws.usace.army.mil/ers/doc_table.cfm as of June 27.