Port Angeles takes next step for landfill bluff work

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The city’s consultant on the effort to prevent decades of accumulated trash in the city’s shuttered landfill from tumbling into the Strait of Juan de Fuca has been given the go-ahead to start the extensive permitting process for the project.

The Port Angeles City Council voted 5-1 last week, with Councilman Max Mania opposed, to approve a $1.2 million amendment to the city’s contract with Seattle-based Herrera Environmental Consultants to continue work on fixing for a failing west Port Angeles bluff that is threatens to release garbage built up in a landfill that was closed in 2007.

Kathryn Neal, the city’s engineering manager, told City Council members the amendment will allow Herrera to move ahead on design, prepare an engineering report and begin compiling information for state and federal permits.

“[That information] will allow us to submit permit applications and get the ball rolling with our regulators,” Neal said.

Neal estimated Herrera would finish by July and that permit applications would be turned into state and federal agencies soon afterward.

City officials want to start construction on the project in summer 2014.

The approved plan for addressing the failing 135-foot bluff will entail shifting 265,000 cubic yards of waste from the portion of the landfill, called the east 304 cell, most in danger and reburying it in the southern portion of the landfill, farthest away from the cliff.

The plan also calls for buttressing the ends of the existing sea wall at the toe of the bluff, improving the nearby mouth of Dry Creek and monitoring the entire area after work is completed.

Some City Council members had concerns with the probable lifespan of the proposed landfill bluff fix, which Neal estimated at about 20 to 25 years.

“When we’ve got a 100-year-old problem, looking at a 20-to-25-year solution looks like a cop-out,” Mania said.

Mania said he supported a route that would “pull us back from the edge of the cliff,” rather than augment the existing sea wall.

“I’m not advocating spending the money to take that wall out, I’m just not advocating spending the money to [buttress] it,” Mania said, “just to make that clear.”

Councilman Dan Di Guilio said he thinks the approach Herrera recommends is the most cost-efficient route now, and it will not hinder future city councils’ efforts to address the landfill on a larger scale.

“This is a problem that’s taken over 100 years to develop, and I don’t think we’re going to fix it overnight,” Dan Di Guilio said. “I’m supportive of the approach we’re taking.”

Deputy Mayor Brad Collins said he was skeptical of Herrera’s recommended solution and said he thought the options Herrera had presented at a January work session that entailed protecting the bluff with additional sea wall construction should have been considered more thoroughly.

“Protecting the bluff is what doesn’t cost money,” Collins said. “I think in the short term you should protect the bluff.”

These options, numbered four and five in Herrera’s January presentation to City Council, would mean extending the sea wall farther to the east along the toe of the bluff and were estimated to cost between $10 and $12 million.

Herrera listed the permitting complexity for options four and five as “very difficult” and “extremely difficult,” respectively, and City Engineer Mike Puntenney addressed this point.

“It’s very unlikely that four or five could even be permitted in this day and age,” Putenney said.

Herrera’s estimated permitting costs for option four and five to be between
$3 million and $7 million, while the same costs were listed as between $500,000 and $1 million for the route City Council has authorized.

Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 24. 2013 5:57PM
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