Local and traveling salmon can find some solitude and snacks in Dungeness much easier thanks to the North Olympic Salmon Coalition and its partners.
Crews with Interwest Construction Inc. of Burlington and Sequim finished most of the The 3 Crabs Nearshore and Estuarine Restoration Project, on Dec. 23, said Kevin Long, project manager with the Salmon Coalition, the nonprofit spearheading the project.
Long said the approximate $3.2 million project from state and federal funds is about 99.9 percent done as crews wait for railings to be complete for the new bridge over Meadowbrook Creek and for warmer temperatures to paint road lines. The project, Long said, improves ecological function of more than 40 acres of coastal wetlands and restores a half-mile of stream channel.
“Overall, it went really well,” Long said.
In September, he anticipated finishing up in November but said adding a month to a six-month project isn’t unheard of especially for its scope.
One reason for an extended project was the discovery and removal of about 300 tons of contaminated soil from a long-removed pole barnbuilt with creosote treated poles.
Long said the soils were contained and removed for an increase of about $98,000 to the project with the remainder of the overages of the original engineer’s estimate of $3 million made in change orders requested by the Salmon Coalition or the contractor.
One of the noticeable changes for locals is the new concrete bridge over Meadowbrook Creek that features a 61-foot opening for water compared to the old bridge’s 19-foot opening, which Long said was prone to trapping debris and flooding upstream.
Now Meadowbrook Creek bridge reroutes Sequim-Dungeness Way to the stop sign intersecting with 3 Crabs Road east of the old bridge and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Viewing Area, or called the Lower Dungeness Unit of the North Olympic Wildlife Area.
Long said traffic began running on the new bridge on Dec. 12 and construction crewmen began taking out the old bridge the same day. Clallam County officially accepted the road into its ownership on Dec. 20, he said.
Because the county owns right-of-way to the viewing area, a Discover Pass is no longer required to park in the cul-de-sac. That area now features a new trail with 400 feet of parking and an 8-foot paved shoulder on the south side for parking about 20 vehicles. Nearby Helen’s Pond remains accessible for a safe pull-off with a 4-foot paved and 2-foot gravel shoulder area and three new lagoons created through the project can be viewed from the rerouted road’s shoulder.
Long said crews installed a planting berm at the Sequim-Dungeness Way/ 3 Crabs Road intersection with drought-tolerant plants to screen homes from headlights. Salmon Coalition staff and volunteer crews also planted 4,150 dune grass plugs in November.
There is a lot of bare ground around the project, Long said, but seeds from nearby marshland should carry over and help grow similar vegetation in the coming years, too.
Crews also planted some along roadways that might not grow as easily, he said.
Overall, the construction reshapes about 1,100 feet of the Meadowbrook Creek channel to the adjacent sloughs and removes about 800 feet of dike and 80 feet of rip rap along the creek’s banks.
Long said ultimately the project is about helping visiting salmon.
“As salmon (such as juvenile chinook salmon) come out to saltwater, they migrate along the shore, like Meadowbrook Creek, and feed in the estuary,” he said. “They bounce along streams on their way to the ocean. It’s not just local salmon but salmon from across Puget Sound and even Canada.”
Meadowbrook Creek is the last freshwater tributary to the Dungeness River and provides “essential rearing habitat for out-migrating Dungeness River salmon,” coalition staff said.
In estuaries like the creek, chinook salmon eat land-based bugs that fall into the water.
Long said the estuary will be used mostly by juvenile salmon in spring/summer.
One advantage for salmon, Long said, is that the creek used to split into three parts but after construction finished there is now one definitive place for them to travel and seek food and refuge.
Long said rerouting the creek brings it back to its 1914 alignment and its most effectiveness.
The property on both sides of the creek are mostly owned by Dungeness Farms Inc., the former 3 Crabs Restaurant site and a portion of the creek’s channel are owned by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Clallam County owns the roadway. Long said the North Olympic Land Trust holds a conservation easement on the Dungeness Farms’ parcels.
Following this project, the Salmon Coalition continues its ongoing outreach to property owners about the removal of butterfly bush. For more information on that, contact Sarah Doyle at 360-379-8051.
For more information on the 3 Crabs Nearshore and Estuarine Restoration Project, visit http://nosc.org.