Consultantsto examine beach enhancements

Published on Thu, Aug 17, 2006 by ara Nelson

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Consultants to examine beach enhancements

By Tara Nelson

Visitors and residents to the shoreline at Birch Bay Drive are now one step closer to receiving long-awaited shoreline improvements such as a raised walkway and a restored beach as called for in the Birch Bay subarea community plan.

“This project has been in the background for over 30 years,” said Kathy Berg, chair of the Birch Bay Steering Committee and a resident of Birch Bay.

“In 2002, it was rated number two by the Birch Bay Steering Committee in their priority for implementation behind storm water management. It’s just really exciting to see it finally happen.”

In an August 8 meeting, the Whatcom County Council voted to authorize Whatcom County to enter into a contract with Philip Williams and Associates to provide a feasibility report for the Birch Bay Shoreline Enhancement project, which is funded by a coastal zone management grant agreement between Whatcom Council of Governments and the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Philip Williams and Associates will perform a preliminary evaluation of coastal processes at work in the bay and prepare a conceptual design of a beach berm.

The project calls for improving a section of shoreline along Birch Bay Drive between Point Whitehorn and Birch Point by removing rip rap, or large, jagged chunks of concrete from the beach and adding appropriately-sized cobble stone to absorb the shock of incoming waves rather than deflect it, Berg said.

Hal Hart, director of Whatcom County planning and development services, said the project, originally proposed in 1985 to create better beach access and a more walkable promenade along Birch Bay drive, has since morphed to include provisions for tourism and economic development as well as environmental restoration and protection from tidal surges in bad weather.

“We’re making a commitment to economic development and stormwater management by looking at the berm and looking at how the road relates to the berm, as well as tourism,” he said.

Hart said because of the multi-faceted nature of the project, it likely will take several years to complete. Part of that, he said, is waiting for the development of the next Whatcom County six-year road plan, which is scheduled for 2007.

“As we do the transportation plan for the Birch Bay urban growth area, then it will become clear if Birch Bay Drive is going to become a main arterial for cars, or if we are going to try to divert cars off Birch Bay Drive,” he said. “Either way, there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle.”

The review will include an on-site visit on Monday, August 21 beginning at 10 a.m. at Cottonwood Beach. Berg said residents of Birch Bay are invited to attend and bring their thoughts and concerns. A second meeting for beachside business owners is scheduled for 11 a.m. the same day.

Shoreline residents and property owners are also invited to a design charette, an intensive examination of preferences, on Saturday, September 6, Berg said.

“They’re the ones who are going to be directly impacted by this so we need to find out what they’re thinking,” she said. “And we need their cooperation as well.”

For more information about the Shoreline Enhancement project, visit