Clallam County commissioners to weigh options for Towne Road amid setback of Dungeness River levee
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A truck drives along Towne Road near the Old Dungeness Schoolhouse on Monday. Clallam County commissioners are considering re-routing the road as upgrades are made to the Dungeness River levee that runs alongside Towne Road. Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Should Clallam County close the north end of Towne Road for the Dungeness River levee setback?

That’s one of three preliminary options being discussed by commissioners, who will seek input from Dungeness Valley residents before deciding how to incorporate the two-lane road North of Sequim into the long-planned U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ dike setback project.

County Engineer Ross Tyler presented three general ideas in the commissioners’ work session Monday:

■   Re-align Towne Road by connecting it to Sequim-Dungeness Way.

■   Leave the road alone and let it flood occasionally.

■   “Cul-de-sac” the road by closing it through the mile-long project area stretching from the Old Dungeness Schoolhouse on the north to the Dungeness Valley Creamery on the south.

“My recommendation would be that we go to the public and we basically put three options out there,” Tyler said.

“And I would certainly welcome any other suggestions.”

Commissioners directed staff to schedule an open house to explain the project and gather public feedback.

The community meeting had not been scheduled as of Monday, but Tyler said it would probably take place in the Old Dungeness Schoolhouse.

Clallam County for decades has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, state agencies and area tribes to move the east Dungeness River dike further east across Towne Road.

The aim is to let the river meander through its natural floodplain to reduce flood risks and to improve habitat for salmon and other wildlife.

It would also improve the water quality for shellfish in Dungeness Bay, officials have said.

Nash Huber of Nash’s Organic Produce told commissioners that Towne Road is “very important” because it connects one side of his farm to the other.

“We’ve got almost 50 employees, and we use that road extensively every day,” Huber said.

“We’re a multi-million-dollar operation, and we really need that access.”

Huber said the cul-de-sac option would be “problematic” because there’s no good alternate route for tractors and other agricultural equipment.

County planners have said the 50-year-old Army Corps dike has constricted the lower river and that sediment confined to the narrow channel has caused the riverbed to rise above the surrounding land.

The county and its partners have been purchasing wetland and semi-wetland parcels within a 117-acre project site for the past several years.

The Army Corps plans to release a feasibility study for the $5 million levee setback project in September, county Habitat Biologist Cathy Lear said.

Tyler predicted that the dike would be moved in the summer of 2016.

“I heard about this concept when I started here in ’85, so it’s been around a while,” Tyler said.

“It’s taken a long time to get to this point.”

The existing levee is a popular place for people to walk their dogs and enjoy the river. The new levee will also be open to the public.

“There will be a nice, large, wide, one-lane — it doesn’t have to be paved, it could be an all weather gravel — good, solid surface,” Tyler said.

“The Corps will not walk away from the levee design without that in there, because it absolutely has to be maintained.

“If there’s a hole in the dike, they want to be able to get down there with equipment and fix it,” Tyler added.

“It’s going to be similar or better as far as equipment access, walking and continued recreational use.

“That won’t go away no matter what option we pick for Towne Road.”

Robert Knapp, restoration planner for the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe, said the levee setback is “really important” to the tribe.

“We’ve been working closely with the county on restoring this area of salmon habitat,” Knapp said.

“We’re looking forward to working with the community to try to find a solution that restores as much habitat as possible and provides the public with what they need there, too.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 23. 2014 6:22PM
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