By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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If the bluff fails, at least three decades’ worth of accumulated garbage in the closed landfill will tumble into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
City officials are loath to wait more than two summers to get construction under way and are in talks with state and federal regulators to have all necessary permit applications for the multimillion-dollar landfill bluff-stabilization project submitted by May.
“One difficulty with this project is the urgency of it,” City Manager Dan McKeen told a joint meeting of the City Council and Utility Advisory Committee on Tuesday.
“Even with our plans right now, there’s nothing guaranteeing [bluff failure] won’t happen tomorrow.”
No action was taken at Tuesday’s meeting.
The bluff stands 135 feet above the Strait at the west end of 18th Street, with a relatively thin layer of dirt — as narrow as 11 feet in some places — keeping the waste from the landfill, which closed in 2007, in place.
Touring site today
City Engineer Mike Puntenney said Wednesday that city public works staff will meet with an armada of state and federal agencies, including the state departments of Ecology and Fish and Wildlife and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, today to tour the site and receive feedback on what permits will be needed for the stabilization work.
At Tuesday’s meeting, City Councilwoman Sissi Bruch argued for at least one public comment period before the final design by Seattle-based firm Herrera Environmental Consultants is chosen.
“I think it would behoove us to present to the public and have a chance for them to speak on all options. Then, we could make a decision,” Bruch said.
Utility Advisory Committee member Dean Reed maintained that the public would have ample chance to comment during the permitting process for the stabilization work.
“I wouldn’t choose that approach myself,” Reed said. “We don’t do it on any other project.”
Bruch replied: “But maybe we should.”
“I don’t agree,” Reed said.
City Public Works Director Glenn Cutler directed members of the public to the city’s bluff-stabilization project website — at http://tinyurl.com/LandfillBluff — to provide comments via email.
When asked about Bruch’s concerns, Puntenney said he plans to give a presentation of about a half-hour to City Council members at their March 5 meeting.
He will outline the stabilization-project design Herrera recommended out of a field of five options at last month’s City Council work session.
The council will make a decision March 19.
The recommended option, estimated to cost between $15 million and $20 million, would mean shifting about 350,000 cubic yards of garbage within the landfill farther away from the bluff and upgrading the existing seawall to counter erosion around and behind the structure.
Bruch said she also wanted the four other options — which included completely removing the existing seawall or armoring a larger stretch of the coastline below the landfill — and their associated costs presented in abbreviated form.
Herrera presented five options of varying complexity and cost at the council work session last month, with the most expensive being the complete removal of the seawall.
Herrera estimated this option could cost between $30 million and $44 million because it would mean removing most, if not all, of the waste accumulated in the landfill.
The seawall originally was built in 2007 to shore up another stretch of the landfill bluff that was failing. A small amount of the waste packed behind it was exposed.
At the meeting, Bruch supported removing the seawall because public works staff and engineering consultants have said in the past that waves reflecting off the structure were exacerbating shoreline erosion on either side of the wall.
Puntenney said the recommended option would augment the wall to help decrease that reflection and not force the city to remove all the landfill’s accumulated garbage.
“[With the recommended option], we don’t have to pull out as much garbage, keeping the cost down to the citizens,” Puntenney said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.