SEQUIM — The Jamestown S’Klallam tribe is moving forward with plans to repair Railroad Bridge over the Dungeness River after securing a $172,000 state grant to design a new trestle.
The rain-swollen Dungeness River tore away pilings and a truss section of the trestle on the west side of the bridge in Railroad Bridge Park, 2151 W. Hendrickson Road, on Feb. 6.
The bridge itself is undamaged, but traffic over it has been closed because the trestle is unsafe.
The tribe, which owns the 99-year-old bridge, has worked to find funding to repair or replace the trestle since it was damaged, said Annette Nesse, chief operating officer.
Earlier this month, the tribe secured the $172,000 grant from the Washington State Recreation & Conservation Office Salmon Recovery Fund Board to fund the design phase.
Repairing or replacing the trestle is estimated to cost $1.8 million. The tribe hopes to get a grant for that through the recreation and conservation office during this year’s grant cycle.
According to the tribe, the Salmon Recovery Fund Board has indicated that the application for construction costs currently ranks in the top three proposals for the grant cycle that will be awarded in July.
To be eligible for the construction grant, the tribe must provide matching funds or in-kind services equaling 33 percent of the grant, according to the board website.
To help meet this requirement, the tribe has committed $150,000 in insurance claim payments and an additional $200,000 in tribal funds toward the ongoing effort.
The tribe is in the process of determining whether it is more cost-effective to repair the damage quickly and then rebuild the trestle or wait a little longer, skip the repair and move directly to the long-term rebuild.
“Whether we start with a temporary fix or can begin construction of a new trestle this year will depend on funding, on expedited design and permits, and on whether contractors will be available for this ambitious project,” Nesse said.
The tribe is keenly aware of the trade-offs between a “quick fix” and one that will withstand future weather events and support the river and habitat beneath it, Nesse added.
With the importance of the Dungeness River hydrology and habitat for salmon in mind, tribal Natural Resources staff sought funding through the Salmon Recovery Fund Board.
Eager to move the process ahead — even before the award was announced — the tribe put out a request for proposals, held a question-and-answer session and received a proposal from Otak, a firm based in Redmond.
“Their amazing proposal brought together a team of experts in geology, hydrology, engineering, design, bridges, water processes and habitat specific to the Olympic Peninsula,” Nesse said.
With the grant funding secured, the tribe hired Otak to design a trestle built with modern materials.
“The design we favor spans the new river channel with only two steel pilings, replacing the more than 30 creosote pilings that held up the trestle but were never good for salmon protection,” Nesse said.
The tribe maintains the bridge and surrounding park and allows the public to use it for recreation and educational purposes.
A key purpose of the site is to support the Olympic Discovery Trail, a regional trail system that will eventually stretch from Port Townsend to LaPush.
The trail crosses Railroad Bridge.
Because that link has been severed, the upcoming North Olympic Discovery Marathon has been rerouted.
The marathon had incorporated use of the bridge for the first time in 2014, to rave reviews.
It was a point-to-point course that, for the first time in its history, began in Blyn and ended at City Pier in Port Angeles.
But after the trestle was damaged, it became clear it would not be repaired in time for the marathon’s 13th running Sunday, June 7.
A new route was adopted, and the marathon will now begin at the Agnew soccer fields at the southeast corner of Old Olympic Highway and Barr Road.
It features two out-and-back stretches in the first half of the race.
The first veers from the Olympic Discovery Trail at North Barr Road before doubling back.
The second out-and-back will trace the Olympic Discovery Trail near Siebert Creek, go under Old Olympic Highway, then veer right onto Wild Currant Way.
It then will take a left onto Gehrke Road, go past the Lazy J Tree Farm and then take a right at Finn Hall Road.
Runners will follow Finn Hall Road until the loop at Agnew Parkway and take the loop, which returns them back towards Gehrke Road.
The final 9 miles of the marathon remain unchanged.
Registration will remain open until the day before the marathon.
For more information, including registration details, visit www.tinyurl.com/PDN-NODM.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sports Editor Lee Horton contributed to this report.