County eyes 3 Crabs restoration project

A restoration project aimed at revitalizing a historic wetlands requires the realignment of a portion of 3 Crabs Road – setting it farther back from the Dungeness Bay shoreline.

3 Crabs restoration

What: Public hearing on 3 Crabs Road realignment

When: 1 p.m., Wednesday, July 8

Where: Room 160 in Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles


A restoration project aimed at revitalizing a historic wetlands requires the realignment of a portion of 3 Crabs Road – setting it farther back from the Dungeness Bay shoreline.

Before action to realign the road, remove 32,169 cubic-yards of fill and obsolete remnants of infrastructure and replace a creosote bridge can be taken, however, a handful of permits through Clallam County are needed.

To evaluate the scope of the project for county approval, a public hearing has been scheduled at 1 p.m., Wednesday, July 8, at the Clallam County Courthouse.

Getting approval to do construction in sensitive habitats, like wetlands, can be an arduous process, but Rebecca Benjamin is “hopeful.”

Benjamin is the executive director of the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, the community-based, nonprofit spearheading the restoration effort of the former The 3 Crabs restaurant location and surrounding area.

“We’ve been working and collaborating on this project for a long time now,” she said.

The construction phase, estimated to cost $2.98 million, is the next step of the project that received its first grant funding in 2011.

Already county officials concluded the proposed construction won’t result in “probable significant adverse impacts” based on two previous Programmatic Environmental Assessments and a Finding of No Significant Impact done by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, but county Shoreline Conditional Use, Substantial Development and Critical Area Variance permits are necessary given the construction occurs within wetlands.

If permits are granted, construction is expected to begin in 2016.

Enhancing habitats

The ecological function of three types of habitat, including beach, salt marsh and the lower portion of Meadowbrook Creek are anticipated to be improved following the completion of the project.

Meadowbrook Creek is the last freshwater tributary to the Dungeness River; thus providing “essential rearing habitat for out-migrating Dungeness River salmon,” according to the project overview.

Like the creek, all habitat types targeted by the project “serve key ecological roles,” Benjamin said.

For example, small forage fish and juvenile salmon seek refuge in areas like salt marshes, which also provide a wide array of food. Salt marshes are the “buffet” of the sea, she said.

The site, located just east of the mouth of the Dungeness River, was an ideal candidate for restoration given the “Dungeness River is one of the highest ranked watersheds” for Puget Sound chinook, Benjamin said.

Puget Sound chinook are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The species’s status is reflected with a mere 500 forecasted to return to the Dungeness River this year.

Additionally, “there are several major, human-created problems in the project footprint that have led to degraded nearshore and wetland habitat and impaired ecosystem processes,” Kevin Long, North Olympic Salmon Coalition project manager, wrote in the shoreline application submitted to the county.

The restoration site was once the location of The 3 Crabs restaurant, but after it closing, the building was demolished, leaving behind the foundation and thousands of cubic yards of fill.

Pre-developed conditions

To revert the area back to a more natural state, the proposed project includes: setting back 1,380 lineal feet of Sequim-Dungeness Way and 3 Crabs Road away from the bay’s shoreline; removing an “undersized” creosote-treated bridged across Meadowbrook Creek and replacing it with a 61-foot concrete arch bridge; reshaping and reconnecting 1,070 feet of the Meadowbrook Creek channel to the adjacent sloughs; removing 800 feet of dike and 80 feet of rip rap along the creek’s banks; installing engineered log jams and removing the building foundation and buried septic tanks from past infrastructure.

In total, the project seeks to improve the ecological function of more than 40 acres of coastal wetlands and restore a half-mile of stream channel.

“A really nice thing about this project is the public will still have use of the existing road while the new road is being built,” Benjamin said.

The new road design incorporates a spur with parking to continue to allow public access to the beach and surrounding property owned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. However, Benjamin warns of abutting private lands that aren’t open to the public and encourages people to be aware of property boundaries.

Although nearing the construction phase of the project has taken nearly five years, North Olympic Salmon Coalition staff have taken advantage of the process by integrating it into their ongoing education programs, especially involving students.

“The site has been a great jump-off point to expose young people to a real world project,” Benjamin said.