State offers funds to avert bluff crumbling at Port Angeles landfill
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Exposed trash protrudes in June 2012 from the top of a bluff where erosion has undercut a portion of the former Port Angeles landfill.

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The state Department of Ecology will provide $3.9 million to help fund a project to keep a crumbling bluff at the city's closed landfill at the west end of 18th Street from releasing decades of accumulated garbage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

At the same time, City Council members are expected to consider next week spending an additional $931,000 to finalize designs for the landfill bluff-stabilization project.

Strips of the 135-foot bluff are as narrow as 11 feet in places at the landfill the city operated from 1979 to 2007, and that is all that is holding back “a mountain of garbage,” City Engineer Mike Puntenney has said.

The total cost of the project is expected to be about $17.5 million, Puntenney said, though he added that number could change.

Work is expected to begin next summer.

The emergency financial assistance from Ecology, which will not need to be paid back, had been included in all versions of the state 2013-2015 biennium budget, a final version of which Gov. Jay Inslee signed at the end of June.

“We're delighted to get the [$3.9] million for the regional landfill,” Mayor Cherie Kidd, a member of the Utility Advisory Committee, said at the panel's meeting Tuesday.

“We began aggressive discussions with Ecology regarding this last fall,” Kidd added.

Utility Advisory Committee members voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend that council members approve a $931,000 amendment to the city's contract with Seattle-based Herrera Environmental Consultants.

Seawall design

The money is to complete designs for reinforcing a seawall built at the base of the failing bluff in west Port Angeles and moving about 250,000 cubic yards of accumulated waste back from the edge of the bluff to another area of the landfill.

Puntenney said Wednesday the amendment to Herrera's contract, which will increase Herrera's contract amount to $2,498,771, likely will come before the full City Council for approval this Tuesday.

The council is expected to meet at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 321 E. Fifth St.

Of the total amount of the project, some $15 million has been tapped for construction, an amount Puntenney said has decreased since council members last heard an update from Herrera on the project in March.

At Tuesday's committee meeting, Herrera project manager Tom Bourque said his firm is now recommending the seawall be augmented by “pinning up” each end of the wall with additional wall stretches angled to prevent waves from eroding the 135-foot bluff behind the wall.

This is a change from the poured concrete structures called Core-locs that Herrera initially had proposed earlier this year to add to the ends of the wall.

City Councilwoman Sissi Bruch, also a Utility Advisory Committee member, expressed concern that adding to the wall would exacerbate bluff erosion east of the wall.

“I just feel like we're making things worse in some ways,” Bruch said.

“At this point, I'd prefer just having the wall go away.”

Bourque and Puntenney said recent wave-action studies Herrera has done show the wall is contributing to bluff erosion east of the wall, though less so than initially thought.

“The fact is, the bluff's retreating,” Bourque said.

Puntenney said pinning up the ends of the wall probably would cost slightly more than the Core-loc option, though the wall ends will have less of a footprint on the shoreline than the concrete structures would.

Less of a footprint

“That's what it's all about: having the smallest amount of impact possible,” Puntenney said.

“It should have no more impact than what's already out there.”

Herrera also said moving the landfill's garbage will include modifying two landfill cells' stormwater drainage and gas extraction systems, and obtaining permits required by Ecology for reopening the closed cell, into which the garbage closest to the bluff edge will be moved.

“Ecology has never done this before,” Bourque said.

“No one has ever done this before.”

Puntenney said Herrera expects to have all permit applications completed by August, adding that the city is still on schedule to begin moving garbage and working on the wall by summer 2014.

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

Last modified: July 11. 2013 5:59PM
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