New designer sought for scaled-down Birch Bay beach project

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 14, 2014 

Birch Bay Bail PAD

Dane Randall of Birch Bay walks his dog " Nikita the Akita" on Birch Bay Drive Thursday, March 13, 2014. Improvements to the road have been delayed.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

BIRCH BAY - Whatcom County officials seek a new design consultant for a $12 million Birch Bay road and beach improvement project, after the county couldn't come to terms with Everett-based Reid Middleton.

This setback won't delay the project, which should still be completed in 2016, according to Jim Karcher, engineering manager for county Public Works.

The project, which has been envisioned since the 1970s, includes widening part of Birch Bay Drive, beach restoration and habitat improvement, flood protection, improved stormwater treatment, and better pedestrian access to the beach.

County officials offered few details about how negotiations with Reid Middleton broke down.

"We were unable to successfully negotiate a contract with Reid Middleton which involved the scope, schedule and budget of their proposed work," Karcher said in an email to The Bellingham Herald.

A message left for Shannon Kinsella at Reid Middleton was not returned.

County project manager Roland Middleton, who is not related to Reid Middleton, said the county issued a new request for qualifications to design firms "because the project had been scoped down."

Utility lines will not be buried, as originally planned, because state funding for that part of the project became unavailable. Also, crews won't build a walkway at Cottonwood Beach or widen Birch Bay Drive in that area because residents there didn't want that work done, according to Middleton.

The scope of the work may be narrower, but the estimated project cost has gone up $2 million since one year ago, to $12 million.

"The $10 million was a preliminary, planning-level estimate, and as we get more details on the project figured out, the estimate becomes more accurate," Karcher wrote. "Twelve million dollars is currently where we're at, after initiating negotiations with a consultant."

County money will cover what state or federal grants don't. So far, the county has been awarded about $1.5 million in federal grants, Karcher wrote.

Officials are optimistic the new request for qualifications will result in a designer that is up to the task.

"We expect to select the most qualified firm in April 2014 and enter into a contract in June," Karcher wrote.

BIRCH BAY DRIVE PROJECT

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhampolitics.

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