By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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The Port Angeles-based Coastal Watershed Institute, the lead organizer for the project, is hosting a community meeting and potluck starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Crescent Grange Hall, along Highway 112 in Joyce.
The restoration will focus on about 200 acres of land west of the mouths of the West and East Twin rivers, as they empty into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, said Anne Shaffer, the executive director of the Coastal Watershed Institute.
The project seeks to restore about 15 acres of nearshore and 26 acres of riparian habitat, Shaffer explained.
Riparian habitat forms in vegetated areas along rivers and shorelines and provides shelter for fish, amphibians and other types of small animals.
The Twin rivers are key migration courses for three separate species of salmon, Shaffer said, and have some of the highest numbers steelhead, a seagoing trout, on the North Olympic Peninsula.
In addition to the habitat restoration, the project aims to open up more than 80 acres of upland acreage to the public for recreational fishing, crabbing and fossil hunting.
“It hits the three key areas of restoration, protection and access,” Shaffer said, “in an area that has a paucity of access.”
Shaffer expects the project to cost about $2 million, with $700,000 of that amount representing the land Lafarge Corp., a global producer of concrete and other aggregates, is donating.
The remaining amount, planned to be funded through state grants, will comprise the costs associated with removing a piece of man-made land extending out into the Strait called a mole.
The mole, created in the 1960s with soil taken from the upland hillside, is surrounded by pilings and riprap that keep the soil from spilling into the strait, Shaffer said.
The mole-removal process, once funding has been secured, will consist of taking out the pilings and large rocks keeping the mole in place and allowing the compacted soil to erode into the strait naturally, Shaffer said.
“It's so simple,” she said. “We are pursuing funding really aggressively, so as soon as [funding is acquired], the project goes.”
Lafarge purchased the upland acreage and mole, once used as a clay mine, in 1998 but has since started selling or donating unused properties in its inventory.
Shaffer said the groups involved in the restoration project, including the North Olympic Land Trust, have been planning the endeavor in some form for the past six years.
“We had been dialoguing with Lafarge in 2005, and the stars are all coming together now,” Shaffer said.
Lafarge will donate the land to the land trust, volunteers for which will be responsible for the future upkeep of the acreage, she said.
Shaffer said property owners surrounding the land in question have showed strong support consistently for the restoration project.
Landowners prefer the land be used for recreation and habitat restoration than left as an unknown in Lafarge's land portfolio, she explained.
Representatives from Lafarge have been up front with the groups involved about wanting to donate the land, Shaffer said, but have also said the company would pursue another route that wouldn't involve restoration if it makes economic sense.
Given that, Shaffer said the time is now to take advantage of this habitat restoration opportunity.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at email@example.com.