The State Department of Ecology (DOE) has given its blessing to shoreline improvements for Birch Bay, making Whatcom County eligible for $7 million in state funding for the project.
In a letter dated May 9, DOE director Ted Sturdevant wrote to county public works officials that the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility, formerly known as the berm project, will go a long way toward improving the Birch Bay shoreline by removing sea walls and groins. The proposed shoreline project will remove these features in addition to adding a pedestrian bike path and beach berm on the west side of Birch Bay Drive, strengthening 7,400 feet of shoreline and adding stormwater treatment structures.
“The county’s project will provide a large-scale restoration of the substantially degraded Birch Bay shoreline habitat, significantly improve recreational beneficial use, and additionally improve stormwater management of runoff from Birch Bay [Drive],” Sturdevant wrote.
Whatcom County Public Works needed this letter of support from DOE to be eligible for a $7 million loan from the state public works trust fund, which issues low-interest construction loans to counties and cities across Washington. Whatcom County would normally be ineligible for trust fund dollars because county land use regulations are out of compliance with the state growth management act.
If approved by the state public works trust fund board and eventually the state legislature, the $7 million loan will provide most of the funding for the estimated $10 million project. The county would repay approximately $719,000 per year from the county’s road fund over a 10-year period. The loan would be repaid at an interest rate of one-half of 1 percent, which amounts to just less than $194,000 over 10 years.
County public works staff estimate construction on the project can begin as soon as 2015.
See the letter posted below. Look for a more complete story with reaction from local residents in next week’s issue of The Northern Light.
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