QUILCENE — A new bridge over the lower Big Quilcene River is expected to break ground next spring, part of a project to restore the river and floodplains to the area southeast of Quilcene.
The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe was recently awarded a $25 million Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant to construct the bridge — which will eventually span more than 1,000 feet — and hopes to begin construction in March 2024.
“You’re going to love this bridge,” said Randy Johnson, habitat program manager with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, speaking Monday at a meeting of the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners.
“It’ll take about a year and a half to construct this thing,” Johnson said.
Efforts to restore the river go back several decades, Johnson said, but the project is only possible now thanks to the RAISE grant. The project aims to restore salmon habitat, improve water quality and protect shellfish hatcheries in Quilcene Bay.
The bridge will replace a portion of Linger Longer Road, which currently has an 81-foot-long bridge over the Big Quilcene River and is frequently impacted by flooding, which can prevent access to residents and users of the Herb Beck Marina on Quilcene Bay.
The bridge will be wide enough to accommodate two lanes of traffic as well as bike and pedestrian lanes, Johnson said.
The project is a result of a joint effort between the tribe and the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group and will also include a rerouting and restoration of the Big Quilcene River.
HCSEG will provide the designs for the bridge, permits and conduct a public outreach program in conjunction with the county as well as oversee certain aspects of the construction.
The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe will provide the funding for the project through its RAISE grant. Johnson said the project is estimated to cost about $18 million and there’s a remaining $7 million for the potential construction of a levee on the south side of the Big Quilcene River.
Frequent flooding from the Big Quilcene River often impacts homes in the area and a levee could help abate that problem, Johnson said.
Although designs for a south-side levee have been drawn up and money allocated, Johnson said the project remained only a possibility because it’s not clear who would assume responsibility for the levee into the future. Johnson said the tribe is willing to pay for the project but does not want to be liable for maintenance and repairs.
The responsibility would likely fall to Jefferson County, which will also assume ownership of the bridge once it’s completed.
Jefferson County Public Works Director Monte Reinders said the county has the technical ability to maintain such a levee, but there is not specific funding available to do so.
“There is no flood funding in this county. We can’t use the road fund, which leaves only the general fund,” Reinders said. “It’ll be a decision. The county’s got to decide what the funding source is going to be.”
Johnson said the project can still be completed without the south-side levee, and it’s possible that once the river is rechanneled, the embankment may not be necessary. The levee is designed to require minimal maintenance.
The tribe hopes to put out construction bids for the bridge project in December, Johnson said, with construction to begin in the spring and end in October 2025. If the levee project moves forward, bids would go out in March and construction would continue through summer 2025.
The HCSEG is currently in the process of finalizing permitting for the bridge project and hopes to begin permitting on the floodplain restoration in September. The group will also collaborate with Jefferson County on a public outreach campaign to inform impacted parties of the changes that are going to take place and provide contact information for project updates.
Gus Johnson, habitat program manager with HCSEG — no relation to Randy Johnson — said the group has acquired all the property necessary to begin the bridge project and is working with one remaining property owner for the floodplain work. Even if that property is not acquired, designs can be edited to allow the project to move forward, Gus Johnson said.
While the new bridge is under construction, a temporary bridge on Rodgers Street will provide a detour to Muncie Avenue.
The county will still have to approve the bridge plans, but Reinders said the public works department has been kept informed throughout the process and is OK with what has been proposed so far.
“Constructing this bridge is priority one, and we’re going to do everything that we can to get this built in a timely manner,” Randy Johnson said.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at email@example.com.