Issaquah Creek dam project finish pushed back to Nov. 30
November 19, 2013
By Peter Clark
November could end before the Issaquah Creek dam project.
Originally slated for completion Sept. 15, the replacement of the old creek dam with a series of sloping weirs has fallen well off schedule. Tim Ward, project manager with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, now says he expects completion around Nov. 30.
“We’ve had some problems with ground water and unstable soil,” Ward said. “It’s because of the history of that area of mining and depositing. Also, we’ve actually had some ground water seepage.”
These troubles pile on former hurdles, such as asbestos disposal and wetter soil than expected, giving a late finish date to the project that began May 1. Heavy rain leading to site flooding has also hampered construction efforts.
While the gentler fish ladder is in place, the new intake for the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery is the installation left to complete.
“The weir system is actually up and running,” Ward said of the new ladder, which will help returning salmon up the creek.
The two-and-a-half-month overage on the construction timeline has not been easy on the project’s budget. Ward maintains the cost will not go over the contingency the state set into the projected cost. Then-Gov. Chris Gregoire approved $4 million for the project last year, though Ward said the project cost was set at $3.1 million. The contingency fund is included in the project budget.
“There’s still a lot of incurred costs, but right now we still believe we can get in under the contingency,” he said.
The construction site still has the creek dammed and is pumping the water past the point of work. With the yearly return of mating salmon, the hatchery had to spring to action.
Hatchery Director Darin Combs said the workers did have to physically put ready-to-spawn salmon into a truck and drive them past the construction.
“We did end up trucking some chinook and some coho, which I didn’t expect to do, because I thought the project would be finished before they returned,” Combs said.
Since the hatchery met the state-determined quota of 1,000 chinook and 1,000 coho salmon to run upstream, he said the trucking has finished. Because the hatchery determined half the number got over the dam during high water events, the facility transported only 500 of each species. It took 10 loads of chinook and four loads of the smaller coho to make the quota.
Due to Muckleshoot Tribe members volunteering trucks and time, the transportation did not bring much cost to the state-owned facility. Combs said he expects an ending to the creek damming by Nov. 22.
“They’re planning on letting the creek run naturally,” he said. “That will be a big milestone.”
Other than taking the salmon up stream, the elongated work has not hurt regular hatchery operations.
“It hasn’t affected us too much,” Combs said. “There’s plenty of water on the creek to pump from. We still have a temporary intake upstream and we continue to rely on that.”
Still, he looked forward to the end of project that has taken over a half-year to complete.
“It’s nice to know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Combs said.