PORT ANGELES — City officials are bringing in backup to help repair a storm-damaged section of the Olympic Discovery Trail.
The Port Angeles City Council voted 7-0 Tuesday to authorize a work task request for Clallam County to repair the Waterfront Trail — a portion of the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT) in several spots between Ennis Street and the Morse Creek trestle east of the city.
The city, which owns the entire section of the Waterfront Trail between City Pier and Morse Creek, will reimburse the county up to $50,000 for the repairs under a multi-agency reciprocal maintenance agreement.
“It’s our hope to get out there and fix this within the next couple weeks,” Port Angeles Public Works and Utilities Director Thomas Hunter told the council Tuesday.
City Parks and Recreation Director Corey Delikat said Wednesday crews will mobilize Feb. 3 and endeavor to complete the emergency repairs before a state fish window closes Feb. 14.
“Our goal is to make sure its passable and clean before the Frosty Moss,” Delikat said of the 80-mile Frosty Moss Relay run to be held on the ODT on Feb. 29.
City officials closed the trail between the Ennis Creek and Morse Creek in late December. Signs were placed on both ends of the closure but the trail is still being used.
Windstorms and heavy rains from Nov. 27 to Dec. 22 caused three “major issues” along the trail between three and four miles east of City Pier, Delikat said.
High waves undercut two-thirds of the asphalt near Lees Creek, causing a section of the path to collapse.
A landslide covers the entire trail about 1 1/2 miles east of Ennis Creek. Walkers are able to navigate through the area on a fallen tree.
Further erosion has occurred near the 4-mile maker near the mouth of Morse Creek, leaving that portion of the trail in “jeopardy,” Delikat said.
City parks and engineering staff has been working on design and permitting, Hunter said.
“We have met on the site to see how we might be able to assist,” said Steve Gray, Clallam County transportation program manager, Wednesday.
Delikat said he would present information to the council about the long-term maintenance of the ODT next month.
“As we go through the CFP (capital facilities plan) process, we want to start talking about long-term maintenance of the trail and how we’re going to try and take care of this community asset,” Delikat said.
Delikat said landslides often occur on the bluff between Ennis and Morse creeks, particularly between the 3.0 and 4.0 mile markers.
“I always thought it would be a slide that takes out the trail,” Delikat told the council.
“Over the last 2 1/2 years, I’ve seen more damage from high tides and windstorms than I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
First-year council member LaTrisha Suggs said she wondered whether it would make sense to re-route the trail from the slide-prone area.
“I know that continued maintenance towards the short-term fix is not the ideal solution,” said Suggs, a restoration planner for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
“I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I don’t like those.”
Hunter said Clallam County has expertise in trail maintenance and would help the city expedite the repairs.
“We are working on a process right now with the Department of Ecology, Fish and Wildlife and the Army Corp of Engineers to get permits set up to where we can do this ongoing maintenance in a more timely fashion and it’s not this ‘Oh my gosh, there’s an emergency. Now let’s sit around and wait for a 30-day permitting window,’” Hunter told the council in a four-hour meeting Tuesday.
“Being proactive at the engineering department is going to speed up our response, and also give us some familiarity with how we should be restoring these sections.
“In a lot of cases, there’s going to be mitigation requirements for some of the impacts that we have when we’re talking about new armoring or hardening,” Hunter added, “and that’s even a bigger conversation as to whether or not we want to go that route.”
Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin said the ODT was built in an area east of the city that is not sustainable for infrastructure.
“Does anyone really see that long-term sustainability there without just increasing the armoring, increasing the riprap and reinforcing the bluff?” Schromen-Wawrin asked his colleagues.
“Pretty soon, what are you walking on? You’re not walking on a trail that’s next to the beach with salmonberries and natural vegetation to your right. You’re waking on, like, an armored, asphalt platform. What are we losing with that? We’re losing a sandy beach.
“I realize what I just said is probably going to get me flamed up in the paper tomorrow, but it’s I think a serious question for us,” Schromen-Wawrin added.
“When we talk about long-term sustainability, is that the right infrastructure in the right place compared to what we’re losing by having it there?”
Mayor Kate Dexter said it was a “good idea” to repair the storm damage and reserve the conversation about the trail’s long-term future for another meeting.
“Let’s not decide that tonight,” Dexter said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at email@example.com.