PORT TOWNSEND — A portion of West Uncas Road will be closed for several months starting June 1 to allow the culvert at Salmon Creek to be replaced with an 80-foot concrete bridge to eliminate a fish passage barrier.
The Jefferson County commissioners approved the closure as part of their consent agenda Monday in anticipation of the estimated $1.1 million project.
“Summer chum is the primary fish this is going to assist,” said Mark Thurston, project manager for the county. “It’s quite important for that species.”
He called it one of the most stable salmon runs in the Hood Canal unit.
The closure is set for between mileposts 0.766 and 0.842 through Nov. 30.
The vast majority of the project is grant funded, Thurston said. The state Salmon Recovery Funding Board is providing 85 percent of the funding and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Fish Passage Program is providing $100,000.
The county is picking up about $65,000 at this point, he said.
He said the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has identified that passage as a priority and over the past few years has been using sandbags to help salmon get through the culvert.
“Fish have been getting through with these temporary measures,” he said. “It’s at least a partial barrier and this will completely correct that.”
He said the construction will open up about 0.75 miles of “prime habitat” for the fish.
“It’s a high priority for Fish and Wildlife and the other fish organizations,” he said. “The Hood Canal Coordinating Council has had it ranked pretty high for a while.”
Thurston said it’s part of a larger effort in that watershed, adding that the North Olympic Salmon Coalition has been doing restoration work downstream from the culvert.
The North Olympic Salmon Coalition did not return a call for comment.
Thurston said the impact to traffic will be minimal. West Uncas Road loops from U.S. Highway 101 in Discovery Bay back to the highway near the state Highway 104 interchange.
“You can come in from either end,” he said. That’s why we decided a road closure makes sense.”
On average, the road sees about 188 cars each day, he said. That’s counting cars traveling in both directions.
He said closing the road allows the work to be finished in a shorter time period, at lower cost and without significant impact to the public or adjacent landowners.
A portion of the state funding for the project had been held up in the state Capital Budget, which was only recently approved.
The capital budget, signed Friday, had been stalled for months over a state Supreme Court decision known as the Hirst decision.
Thurston said about $175,000 of the funding for the bridge was in the capital budget, which had officials worried they would need to find money in the county budget for the project.
“We would have had to reconvene on our budget situation and decide if the county could kick in the money,” he said. “It would have been difficult if that hadn’t come through.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].