After years in the making, Birch Bay berm structure is complete


At a March 25 “Coffee with the Contractor” meeting, Whatcom County Public Works engineer Jim Karcher said the Birch Bay berm structure is complete and has been for about two weeks. The pathway, mostly limestone but concrete in spots where adjacent to parking spaces, is also complete and the vegetation is planted.

However, Karcher said signs need to be placed and the plants established for the project to be considered fully complete.

There is a year establishment period for all vegetation on the berm, Karcher said. This means public works and Granite Construction are responsible for maintaining the plants for a year, which was a requirement of the permit for the project. Since the project altered the shoreline, he said public works is responsible for returning it to its natural state.

Some limestone has been added to the existing access points along the berm, Karcher said. Those are small paths through the plants perpendicular to the pathway for community members to access the beach without disrupting plant growth.

He said the orange construction fence along the path will be removed eventually but is  remaining for now to protect the plants.

The nearly completed $15 million project, officially called the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility Project, has been under construction since December 2019.

Along with Karcher, Roland Middleton and Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office deputy Derek Jones answered questions from the meeting.

Jones said deputies will be out more often enforcing traffic now that the berm is complete and more traffic is expected along Birch Bay Drive, especially with summer on the horizon. “So make sure you watch your speedometers,” he said.

The Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce will hold a community celebration Saturday, August 21 to mark the completion of the berm.

Last week, crews put up signage, monitored the vegetation to see if any areas need replanting and demobilized equipment.

At the previous “Coffee with the Contractor” meeting February 25, Granite Construction’s Gairrett Orelup said the project would be completed by early April. He said at the meeting Granite crews had finished importing 205,000 tons of berm material and for the next month would be planting, finishing swale work, paving curbs and parking spaces, and extending the pathway on the northern end of the berm.

Since the end of February, Granite has completed this work and demobilized most of its equipment from the area.

Below are some questions and answers from the meeting, edited for length and clarity. To listen to the whole meeting, visit the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce’s YouTube page at

Question: Will the driftwood be removed from the north Cottonwood area?

Middleton: We’re not removing the logs. And this goes right into the next question, which was about the boat launch, right in that same area.

We didn’t do anything to the boat launch. It’s covered in logs right now. That is a function of the wave action and the wind, and the amount of logs that were in the water. If someone is down there and they want to move a log out of the way to get their boat down to the boat launch, public works has no opinion about that. Logs are controlled by the Department of Natural Resources.

Question: How many handicap spaces will be assigned?

Middleton: There are two new spaces added to south Cottonwood and two new spaces south of Mariner’s Cove condominiums. There is one new one down from Bay Breeze Restaurant.

Question: Are there any plans for surveillance cameras after vandalism on a new bench on the berm?

Jones: There are no plans for any surveillance cameras. Honestly if we did, it would be hard to catch a suspect. It’s a crime of opportunity. It looked like it says, “Ghost.” So if you see that anywhere, please report it. That’s how we caught the last suspect, through repetition.

Question: Will there be any delineation between the enhanced shoulder and the swale?

Karcher: The only problem with the “lip-up” is that the swale is designed to treat road runoff before it gets into the bay. So the answer is probably no.


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