New breakwater gets the go-ahead

Published on Thu, Nov 29, 2001 by Meg Olson

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New breakwater gets the go-ahead

By Meg Olson

After almost two years on hold, the Blaine breakwater replacement project is set to begin in April.

“We now have all the permits in hand to do the project,” said Port of Bellingham communications manager Carolyn Casey. “On November 20 the port commission gave authorization for a consultant to develop final specifications for the project.”

The hold-up on the project was approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which the port applied for in January, 2000. Other permits from the city of Blaine and the state department of fish and wildlife and department of ecology were approved in April 2000, but the Army Corps came back with a request for a biological assessment on top of the original environmental assessment for the overall harbor renovation project. The $8,000 study was completed and submitted to the Corps of Engineers last year but the port had to wait months before they got notice last week that the project would have no significant environmental impact. “Almost two years later we were told there wouldn’t need to be a permit,” Casey said.

After the long wait Casey said port staff are eager to get the project rolling. “We’re happy, after all this time, to get to finish the harbor improvements,” she said. The old timber breakwater at the entrance to Blaine Harbor, over 50 years old and badly deteriorated, will be replaced with new concrete piles and a steel wave-barrier. Construction is scheduled to run from April 26, 2002 to January 31, 2003, and the port anticipates selecting a contractor in the first week of April. “Realistically, it will take the successful contractor 90 days to purchase and assemble the new portions of the breakwater and 90 days for construction, including demolition of the old breakwater,” Casey said.

Funding for the project got a boost November 16 from a $280,000 grant from the Interagency committee for Outdoor Recreation. Casey said the balance of the $1.6 million dollar project will come from cash reserves left over from the original bond issue used for earlier harbor upgrades.

Renovations to the pier at the end of Marine Drive will run concurrently with the breakwater replacement. Plans are to repair sections of the deck and add lighting and safety rails. “That part of the project is paid for out of tax dollars as a way to improve community access to the water,” Casey said.

The port plans to add further improvements to the public pier once a lease agreement with Washington Crab is revised and eventually build a walkway on the new breakwater for pedestrian access.

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