Residents weigh in on Birch Bay berm project

By Ian Ferguson and Steve Guntli


Birch Bay residents received an update from project managers and had a chance to weigh in on the ambitious Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility Project, more commonly referred to as the berm project.

Approximately 100 people attended an open house at Birch Bay Bible Community Church on November 8 to hear the latest about the berm project, which will protect the road from flooding and includes a walkway along Birch Bay Drive.

Whatcom County Public Works project engineer Kevin Thompson discussed developments, and said he was pleased with the turnout for the event. berm

“We had a lot of people turn out, and we got a lot of really great comments,” he said.

One of the most common concerns Thompson has heard involves the undergrounding of utility lines. Thompson said burying the utility lines was originally included but was cut due to budgetary concerns.

“It’s still a good idea, and it’s something we think needs to be done,” he said. “It’s just a matter of timing and money.”

Thompson said his team is looking at coordinating with the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD) to get a start on burying the utilities.

The district has projects in the works that would require parts of the drive to be ripped up, and Thompson said this would be an ideal time to lay in some of the utilities. However, the problems of timing and funding still apply, as the district’s projects have neither a set start date nor identified sources of funding.

The engineering firm Environmental Science Associates is the leading design consultant on the $11.5 million project which is on track for construction to begin in 2016.

The berm would run along the drive from Lora Lane to Cedar Avenue.

The impetus for reconstructing the beach came after renowned coastal hydrogeological engineer Wolf Bauer provided a shoreline analysis with preliminary design elements in 1975.

The community has expressed an ongoing desire to see the project completed. Included in the 2004 Birch Bay Subarea Plan, significant flooding on Birch Bay Drive in 2012 was further evidence that the shoreline needed protection.

The riprap, sea walls, groynes and bulkheads currently in place would be replaced with a more natural soft-shore beach that would reduce wave damage, minimize erosion and be more aesthetically pleasing as befits a popular summer destination.

Thompson said the county will provide updates through periodic newsletters reporting on key developments.

For more information, contact Thompson or engineering manager Jim Karcher at 360/717-7450.

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