‘Band-Aid’ seawall likely to stay below failing landfill bluff in Port Angeles

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Immediate efforts to deal with a failing bluff abutting Port Angeles’ landfill will not include the removal of a seawall at its base, though the structure’s years may be numbered.

Several members of the City Council and the public made clear during discussions about the city’s landfill bluff-stabilization project at Tuesday’s council meeting that they thought the 7-year-old concrete structure eventually should be torn out.

“I guess the idea of a $1.4 million Band-Aid [to buttress the seawall] is really hard for me to accept,” City Councilwoman Brooke Nelson said.

Council members took no action regarding the project at the meeting.

Tom Bourque of Seattle-based engineering firm Herrera Environmental Consultants said the firm had gathered information about wave action and erosion at the bluff shoreline that would allow the city to consider more expensive options, such as removing the seawall, over the next two decades.

“We’re trying to use that information to be able to protect the landfill for a long enough time during a [funding]-capacity-building time for the city,” Bourque said.

Herrera has estimated that removing the entire seawall would cost between $30 million and $44 million.

The present landfill project, if approved, would fortify the ends of the seawall and remove roughly half of the accumulate waste in the section of city landfill most threatened by the failing 135-foot bluff.

The project is intended to keep decades of accumulated city waste at the closed landfill at the west end of 18th Street from falling down that bluff into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

At the meeting, Bourque said Herrera’s most recent cost estimates put the project’s price tag at $15.4 million.

Roughly $14 million would be needed to move 265,000 cubic yards of garbage from west cell 304, the landfill section most in danger of falling into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to a portion of the non-operating landfill farther south from the bluff, Bourque explained.

“[This is] a managed pullback [of garbage],” Bourque said. “This is no doubt the most stable and least risk to the city.”

The remaining $1.4 million would go toward strengthening the ends of the existing seawall with large rocks and poured-concrete structures called Core-Locs.

Along with Nelson, Councilman Max Mania also supported eventually removing the wall, though he wanted more information on the Core-Locs.

“I favor taking the wall out, but I would want to know some sort of background on where the Core-Locs were used before,” Mania said.

Support for seawall removal also came from the public, with Darryl Wood, chairman of the Olympic Peninsula chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, and Port Angeles resident Jim Waddell, a civil engineer retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, urging the move.

“First of all, I would say your seawall is a problem,” Waddell said.

“It’s eventually going to have to go.”

Bourque said seawall removal is a possibility in the long term but added that the wall is still buttressing the portion of bluff that holds back another pocket of buried waste, called the valley cell.

“Remember, when we remove the seawall, we’re moving back into [an] imminent threat,” Bourque said. “That valley cell is staring right at us.”

Bourque said the landfill project also will include placing logs and woody debris at the mouth of Dry Creek just west of the landfill to keep the creek from shifting to the point that it weakens the west bluff.

Nicole Harris, a Western Washington University student and nearshore intern with the city-based Coastal Watershed Institute, also supported seawall removal and said the landfill project should be considered in the larger framework of the Elwha River dams-removal and restoration project.

She pledged the help of CWI and the Elwha Nearshore Consortium, a CWI-coordinated group of scientists studying the Elwha restoration, in monitoring how Elwha sediment will affect the shoreline and supported the creation of a technical advisory body that would provide input in this regard.

“I like the idea of some sort of task force [comprising people] who have dealt with shorelines,” Councilman Dan Di Guilio said.

City Public Works Director Glenn Cutler said the landfill issue will be discussed next at the city’s Utility Advisory Committee meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Jack Pittis Conference Room at City Hall, 321 E. Fifth St.

Cutler said city public works staff expect to come back to the full City Council at the council’s March 19 meeting to ask for permission for Herrera to move ahead with the next design phase of the project.

This phase would delve into specifics, Bourque said, and allow the city to apply for the local, state and federal permits needed for the work, hopefully by this August.

“The permit process will probably take six to nine months,” Bourque said.

City officials want to start waste removal no later than summer 2014.

Comments and questions about the landfill project can be sent to landfillbluff@cityofpa.us.

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

Last modified: March 06. 2013 5:07PM
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