$3.8 million project to provide face-lift for Dungeness' 3 Crabs estuarine area

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

DUNGENESS –– Rerouting Sequim-Dungeness Way, removing a century of shoreline armoring and expanding wetland lagoons will soon be done under a plan to restore the beach and estuary at 3 Crabs.

Led by the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, the $3.8 million project's goal is to protect and restore “some of the most high value coastal lands on the continent,” said Jamie Michel, project manager for the North Olympic Salmon Coalition.

When finished, the organizations spearheading the project hopes it will help return Meadowbrook Creek to its natural channel as well as make the beach easier for the public to reach.

The centerpiece of the plan is to reroute Sequim-Dungeness Way about a half-mile south, Michel and engineers said at a meeting to unveil the engineered plan in, fittingly, the Old Dungeness Schoolhouse last week.

Sequim-Dungeness Way connects the 3 Crabs neighborhood with Dungeness Village. The road currently runs from the village to the shore past the turnoff for the county's 3 Crabs Way.

The new road, built on a sandbar on land owned by Dungeness Farms, will include a 60-foot bridge — three times as wide as the current 20-foot span — that is intended to leave enough room for Meadowbrook Creek to flow freely beneath it.

“Meadowbrook Creek itself is pretty degraded. It's not really used by salmon now,” Michel said.

The creek meets the Dungeness River at its mouth. Michel said it is a valuable habitat for spawning salmon as they migrate out of the river to the bay.

“River deltas and estuaries are prioritized as being the best bang for the dollar in salmon recovery,” said Michel.

Last week's meeting showed the design for one-third of the project by the engineering firm Cardno-Entrix of Seattle.

Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2015, finishing that fall.

The current bridge, near where the 3 Crabs Restaurant stood until it was demolished by state contractors last November, forces the creek to narrow to flow beneath it, Michel said.

That has changed its natural channel.

“The river used to go wherever it wanted before we came along,” said Jim Johannessen of Coastal Geologic Services.

That constriction also keeps tides from the bay from flushing the creek, which makes it easier for grasses to clog the waterway and choke it off as a possible salmon path.

As did the Dungeness Bay coastline.

Using time-lapse maps and overhead photos of the area, Johannessen showed how currents coming off the Strait of Juan de Fuca pushed sand along the beach, extending it westward.

That movement was hampered, the photos showed, by the road and by armoring set in place to protect the restaurant that created a square angel that jutted out into the bay.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife purchased 52 acres, including the former seafood-restaurant building, from former owner Norma Marshall for $1 million in shortly after the restaurant closed in the fall of 2012.

Mick Cope, regional director for fish and wildlife, said the agency will set up a public beachhead at the site, with a parking lot to fit 20 cars plus restrooms.

The coalition, a private nonprofit, received a $200,000 grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office last summer to engineer the restoration plan.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 18. 2014 10:17AM
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