PORT ANGELES — Projects to replace culverts that block fish passage on U.S. Highway 101 in Port Angeles have been delayed to allow design revisions for traffic management.
The outdated culverts are barriers for fish in Lees, Ennis and Tumwater creeks.
Construction will have major impacts on traffic in Port Angeles and on Highway 101.
“All three of the culverts that are in place currently are barriers to fish migration and are extremely complex in how they are set up to be mitigated,” said Tina Werner, public information officer for the state Department of Transportation (DOT).
The projects were set to begin in summer 2022, but they are now delayed to the fall. That includes the selection and hiring of the project contractor which will begin this summer.
“We had to kind of go back to the drawing board and reevaluate some of the designs that are taking place because we want as much as possible to keep people and goods moving,” Werner said.
DOT is required to work to remove barriers for migrating fish and salmon per a 2013 federal court injunction, which requires the state to significantly increase fish barrier corrections.
The work at Tumwater Creek would shift traffic down Lincoln Street to the Tumwater Truck Route, while the projects at Lees and Ennis creeks would narrow Highway 101 to one lane for at least two years.
“That’s what’s primarily contributed to the delay is just the complexity of the design,” Werner said. “I think that was something our team was not necessarily anticipating to be that difficult.”
Changes are not likely going to affect traffic impacts much.
“Right now, the design issues that we are facing may not necessarily eliminate those traffic delays,” Werner said.
There are several instances where the creeks travel underneath the roadways.
A similar project will be starting over the Elwha River Bridge on Highway 101.
That work will require the construction of a temporary bypass lane around the culvert to divert traffic, allowing workers to build a concrete girder bridge.
This summer will also mark the beginning of the replacement of the Elwha River Bridge.
“It’s a very robust program, and a large majority of our fish barriers are actually within our region, within the Olympic Peninsula, and the western portion of the state,” Werner said.
“It’s not just important for fish, but it’s important for our communities because it presents an opportunity to improve water systems and roadways,” she said.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].