County budget cuts won’t affect Birch Bay berm construction

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County budget constraints won’t affect construction on Birch Bay’s ongoing 1.6-mile beach restoration project.

Roland Middleton, Whatcom County public works special projects manager, told members of the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce during an April 23 video discussion that the project is budgeted and will move forward.

“I might lose my job but we’re not going to lose the project,” he said. “What we are doing is postponing future projects.” Middleton added that the county is discussing furloughs, layoffs and a hiring freeze.

“Right now the cash flow is worse than it was in '08 to '09,” he said.

Whatcom County executive Satpal Sidhu announced in an April 21 press release that the county would postpone existing contracts, reduce discretionary spending and take other measures to prepare for a projected revenue shortfall due to the coronavirus, the governor’s stay-at-home order and border restrictions.

Construction on the project, officially called the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility Project, began on December 9 last year. The project’s goals are to restore the beach to a natural state by replacing sea walls and other concrete structures with sand and gravel; protect Birch Bay Drive from storm surges; and improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure along the road.

Granite Construction, the county’s contractor for the project, is finishing up the first of two rounds of construction, now with masks, social distancing and other new safety measures. Granite workers are finishing concrete work in front of the Bay Breeze Restaurant and Bar and will be wrapping up for the summer next week, said Luke Bentley, Granite Construction project manager, at an April 30 Birch Bay chamber discussion.

Before the virus pandemic, the county and its contractor had agreed to not work during Birch Bay’s summer tourism season. Though the pandemic may impact tourism in Birch Bay this year, fish spawning and rearing windows also limit the county’s ability to work in the water.

For more information, visit the county’s Covid-19 fiscal response page at bit.ly/3eUMWrt.

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