“The project is a shoreline enhancement project to reduce erosion and storm damage, improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, enhance shore access, and improve storm drainage along Birch Bay Drive between Alderson and Birch Point Roads.”
After some minor design changes, the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility project has finally gained support from property owners – a fact that pleased Whatcom County Council members.
Whatcom County Public Works project manager Roland Middleton, delivered a report to the council’s public works, health and safety committee on October 22.
Council members voted unanimously to approve the introduction of the county’s 2014 annual road construction program, which includes the preliminary phases of the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility project, for future action. A public hearing on the program is scheduled for November 12.
“There has been more discussion surrounding this project than any other project in the history of Whatcom County,” Middleton said.
Renowned hydrogeological engineer Wolf Bauer first recommended a beach restoration and flood control project when he analyzed the Birch Bay shoreline in 1975. In 1986 a portion of the project was constructed, and the continuation of the project has been an ongoing request of the community ever since. The request was included in the 2004 Birch Bay Subarea Plan as one of the top projects for the area, and was formally adopted into the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan.
Middleton presented two new cross-section designs that were developed in response to concerns expressed by Birch Bay Drive property owners. The earlier designs featured multiple bike paths, sidewalks on both sides of the road, landscaping trees and other improvements. Under the new designs, no sidewalks or other road improvements will be built on the east side of the road, and no new trees will be planted on the berm.
“We’re going to preserve existing trees wherever possible, and what we’ve done on some of this design work is shift the road over so that we’re not encroaching into the trees,” he said.
Middleton said a major goal of the project is to minimize disruption to local homes and businesses, both in the design of the project and during its construction.
“For a lot of those businesses, if you shut them down for a month in the summer you shut them down forever,” he said. “We’re going to work with the people there to make sure our construction scheduling doesn’t conflict with business too much.”
One business in particular presents a challenge to the project design because it’s on the west of the road.
“The Via Birch Bay café is located right where the beach berm would go, so as long as that structure is there, we’re going to have to design around it,” Middleton said. “We’re going to taper down the berm on either side of it to make sure that there’s no impact to that business.”
The total estimated project cost is $11.45 million, and funding is expected to come from federal and local sources. Everett-based engineering firm Reid Middleton Inc. (no relation to Roland) is designing the project. The preliminary design phase of the project is expected to continue through 2015, and construction is expected to begin in 2016.
“As soon as you approve expenditures, we’ll begin working with the firm we selected to begin the scope of work,” Middleton told council members. “We want to get this thing built and done.”
Project managers sought funding for the undergrounding of utility lines along Birch Bay Drive, a major goal of the project, through the state’s Public Works Trust Fund but were denied funding because state legislators voted to permanently redirect those funds.
Middleton said the utility lines along Birch Bay Drive, around 40 years old, are expected to begin failing in five to 10 years, and when they do state funding will become available to put them underground.
To see the new cross-section designs and to learn more about the project, visit the project page on the county’s public works website.
see Coast Millennium Trail page on this website
Get Educated ** Get Involved
Project Newsletter for the Birch Bay Drive & Pedestrian Facility (aka Wolf's Beach Restoration) by the Whatcom County Public Works Department
The Rumor: I heard the cost to underground the utilities on Birch Bay Drive is too expensive for the Pedestrian project and that the County Council will require a separate bond issue and assessment for property owners along the Drive.
The Facts at this time from Whatcom County Project Manager Roland Middleton:
We asked the design team (Reid-Middleton) to prepare a detailed cost analysis for the entire project as set forth by the goals of your community plan. This would include the reconstruction of the beach through the resort commercial area, repair of the tide gate at Terrell Creek, bike lanes, paths, potential restroom locations, and undergrounding all the utilities from Alderson Road all the way to Birch Point Road.
The preliminary information that I have is undergrounding the utilities are far more expensive than any of our previous discussions. Once we have the information in front of us then we can discuss the appropriate phasing of the project.
I was asked at one of the neighborhood meetings, “What options do we (the Birch Bay Community) have if the County can’t afford to do the undergrounding of the utilities?” I replied that the undergrounding of the utilities is a specificly defined goal of the community plan. Whatcom County is looking at all possibilities of implementing the plan. One of many possibilities is raising money through a Local Improvement District for the specific task of the utility work.
We are still pulling together the information.
Rights of Way - in Whatcom County and as documented on Birch Bay Drive.
The surveyors have deliniated the Whatcom County's 60ft. right-of-way on Birch Bay Drive. This establishes the limits of the ROW, this is NOT necessarily where the road will be. Each property will be evaluated individually in discussion with the property owner based on need when the designing gets to that stage.
The Birch Bay Waterfront Group were self-sellected community citizens serving as the implementation subcommittee of the Birch Bay Steering Committee for the Birch Bay Community Plan as adopted in 2004 to work on accomplishing
Goal PR 2: Recognizing that Birch Bay is one of Washington's Shorelines of Statewide Significance, to develop a long-range course of action that provides for high quality recreation use while protecting the resource itself and respecting the rights and ambiance of private property owners.
The Last Meeting of the Birch Bay Waterfront Group was:
Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 4PM in the Fireside Room
of the Birch Bay Bible Community Church, 4460 Bay Road
Special Guests were:
Alexandra Stone with the NPS
Kevin Thompson, Design Engineer with Whatcom County Public Works
Whatcom County shall work with private land owners, citizen groups, developers, and other agencies to implement the Birch Bay Promenade as presented in the 1977 Birch Bay Comprehensive Plan . . . (Policy 2.04.4)
Wolf's 1981 Beach Restoration on Terrell Spit at Birch Bay
1981 Wolf's Beach Restoration to protect the town homes built on the narrow spit.
Wolf-head canoe, Vancouver Harbor 1890
Crest Haven homes at 2012 high King Tide.
One benefit of Wolf's Beach Restoration will be the continuation of the Coast Millennium Trail through Birch Bay.
Drift Sectors of Whatcom County Marine Shores by Wolf Bauer - 1974
The Birch Bay Healthy Community Assessment is being led by Melissa Morin of the Whatcom County Health Department and using the tools provided by the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program.
This article is about the award-winning Marine Park beach restoration in Bellingham. This Port of Bellingham project shows what the Birch Bay shoreline could be like with a similar restoration for the same reasons as prescribed by Wolf Bauer in 1975.
The "Cottonwood Ladies" (Carol, Doralee & Claudia) wanted to know what that "smelly pinkish algae-like stuff" is in the water & on the beach here at Birch Bay that they hadn't seen before. So they called someone who talked to someone else who called a research center, sent pictures & samples and here are the results for all of us to see. July 2009
Dr. Strom believes the mat to be a purple sulfur bacteria. I've attached her email below so you can see her notes. From a quick internet search it doesn't appear that this bacteria is harmful to human health, although I certainly did not do an exhaustive search. The anoxic (low oxygen) environment could also be the cause of the dead varnish clams you referred to, Carol.
Take care, Melissa
Melissa and Sylvia, Our best guess - and I am feeling pretty confident about this - is purple sulfur bacteria. They form in illuminated anoxic environments and tend to form layers or mats. The habitat would have to be 'sulfidic' and so should have been pretty smelly. There are some pictures that come up with an image search on the web that show beach coatings looking a lot like those in your photos. It is definitely bacterial (1-2 um diameter cells with no nucleus) and in the most recent sample we saw enough red autofluorescent cells to convince us that the critter is photosynthetic. So it all seems to fit. Regards, Suzanne (Dr. Strom at Shannon Point Marine Center)
Melissa Roberts Whatcom County Public Works Planner I - Natural Resources 322 N. Commercial St., Ste. 110 Bellingham, WA 98225 (360) 676-6876 ext. 50259"
Birch Bay & Terrell Creek State of the Watershed Report Summer 2007