Night work ahead in effort to restore health of Padden Creek estuary

Night work will start this Friday, Jan. 16, on a project to restore Padden Creek estuary, which also is referred to as Padden lagoon.

An estuary is where salt water and fresh water mix.

Located off Harris Avenue near the ferry terminal, Padden Creek estuary provides important habitat for wildlife and fish, including adult and juvenile salmon that use them as migration corridors, according to city of Bellingham officials.

The $225,699 project is one of two to restore the estuary, both of which will be paid for primarily with grants from the Washington state Department of Ecology. The city of Bellingham also will put in matching money.

Strider Construction was the low bidder for this effort, some of which will occur at night to take advantage of the extreme low tide.

“It makes it a little difficult to do some of the work when it’s under 6 feet of water,” said Craig Mueller, a city of Bellingham project engineer.

Improvements to the estuary’s habitat include creating an additional salt marsh on the east side and protecting the east embankment from erosion.

“Basically, we’re digging on the west and placing material on the east side and shoring up the eastern embankment with a combination of aggregate and large woody debris,” Mueller said.

Removing creosote timber and piles on the southeast corner near the overlook and Harris also is part of the work.

Creosote was put in logs as a preservative, to kill fungi, plants and pests. But it’s a toxic chemical and a known carcinogen, and can be harmful and even lethal to marine species.

The night work, which will include bright lights and some noise from heavy equipment, will occur on Friday night, break for the rest of the weekend, and then resume on Monday night. Crews hope to be done with the night work by the end of the week of Jan. 19, according to Mueller.

Pedestrian access won’t be affected. If needed, flaggers will help direct traffic to allow trucks that are being used in the project to enter the street.

The entire project will take about a month.

The estuary has been altered a great deal over time because of urban and industrial development.

Small estuaries, including the Padden Creek estuary, have become increasingly important as the amount of intertidal habitat in Bellingham Bay has shrunk, city officials have said, noting that about 282 acres of aquatic land have been lost in the inner part of the bay.

A second project to improve the estuary’s health is expected to start in May and be completed by summer. It will clean up stormwater that now flows untreated out of a 30-inch diameter pipe and directly into Padden Creek.

This project will grab water out of an existing storm main at Ninth Street and Harris Avenue and treat it. Estimated cost for this piece is $1.1 million for design and construction.