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
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
part of the highway construction project.
- Cross-dikes: A cross-dike
will be built this summer to provide protection from high tides to adjacent
- 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
“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.