Birch Bay berm project begins its scoping process

Published on Wed, Jan 23, 2013 by Ian Ferguson

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Engineering firms are scoping the shoreline enhancement project, and county officials expect to hear cost and scheduling estimates in the coming weeks.

Roland Middleton, special projects manager with Whatcom County Public Works, outlined the factors involved in planning the project to the Birch Bay Waterfront Group at a January 17 meeting.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” he said, “but we enjoy challenges, right?”

Among those challenges are dozens of permitting applications, sensitivity to nearby businesses, residences and wildlife, stormwater management, access for emergency vehicles during and after 
construction, utility line considerations, traffic calming measures, a walkway and a bike path, not to mention the engineering of the berm itself. 

Roland Middleton told the group with certainty that groundbreaking for the project will occur in autumn 2014.

A committee tasked with selecting the lead engineering firm narrowed the field to five firms, with Everett-based Reid Middleton as the top choice. 

“We’re hoping by the end of next week we’ll have the scope of the work, how long it will take and the cost,” Roland Middleton said. “If we can’t agree on cost and a schedule with our preferred firm, we’ll set it aside and move on to the next one.”

Scheduling construction is a major and complex component of the scoping process, Roland Middleton said.

“Many of you have businesses along Birch Bay Drive that live and die between June, July, August, and part of September,” he said. “It will be crucial to hire a firm that has a plan for minimizing interruptions to local business.”

Kathy Berg, head of the Birch Bay Waterfront Group, is a member of the committee that is selecting the engineering firm.

“As concerned citizens of Birch Bay, we want to give our input as the county moves forward on the project, so we can move forward gracefully together,” she said.

Middleton emphasized the importance of community involvement in the project.

“This is the Birch Bay community’s project, which we are implementing for you and your involvement will play a major role in the final product,” he said.

A central goal of the project is to encourage pedestrian and bicycle use along Birch Bay. With three miles of construction along 195 parcels of private land, the cross section of the berm, walkway, roadway and bike path will be different for different areas, Middleton said. 

The configuration of crosswalks, parking areas and stormwater drains and ditches will also vary along the length of the project.

Melissa Morin, a Whatcom County community health specialist, told the audience about a Center for Disease Control (CDC) grant for a study that would determine how the construction of walking and biking paths can make a community safer and healthier.

Morin said the shoreline enhancement project is a perfect candidate for the grant. 

She is looking for volunteers to help conduct the study, and can be reached for more information about the study and the grant by calling 360/676-6724 ext. 32027.

Bob Ridgley, owner of Binary Recording Studio in Bellingham, said he is planning to keep the Birch Bay community apprised of developments through the duration of the shoreline enhancement project with an attractive, interactive website. 

He and Lummi Island resident filmmaker Terry Terry will run the site featuring photos, videos, Google maps and frequent updates. The website’s address will be birchbaywaterfront.org.