Work on Birch Bay berm causing temporary lane closures

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Construction on the Birch Bay berm resumed September 8 and will cause single-lane closures on Birch Bay Drive.

This week, workers are welding high-density polyethylene pipe sections together that will be installed the week of August 14, Whatcom County Public Works staff said. The pipes will extend under the berm into the water to drain stormwater treatment swales above the berm. Granite Construction, the county’s contractor for the project, will begin installing the outfalls just north of the Bay Breeze Restaurant and Bar and proceed north toward Harborview Drive.

Public works staff said there will be single-lane closures on Birch Bay Drive while crews move the sections into place. Most of the construction will occur at night, staff said, and will be based on the timing of low tides. The county’s website says wait times for lane closures should be less than five minutes.

As of September 8, about a quarter-mile section of the southbound lane on Birch Bay Drive was closed for construction. The lane closure caused minor delays to traffic.

The $8.7 million project, officially called the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility Project, will replace the riprap, sea walls, groins and bulkheads along the shore with sand and gravel, according to the Whatcom County website. The project will recreate a natural seashore, reduce flooding and erosion through natural wave attenuation, and create bicycle and pedestrian paths.

This is the second phase of construction. The county scheduled two phases of construction with a break for the summer tourism season and for fish spawning seasons. Granite Construction finished the first phase in May.

In a virtual public works and health committee meeting August 5, public works engineer Jim Karcher told county council the department intends to request additional funds for the project’s budget.

Public works staff said the budget is tight, and the extra funding would serve as a buffer to handle issues that may arise on a project of this size
and complexity.

“Construction moves quickly, and delays to decisions cost time and money, so we want the budget authority in place for expedient decision-making,” county staff said in an email.

Public works staff said they do not know when the second phase of the project will be completed and are waiting on a schedule from Granite Construction before they inform the public. According to the plan on the county’s website, the project will be completed by April 2021.

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