Poulsbo city, port officials concerned about shoreline erosion

The seawall at Poulsbo
The seawall at Poulsbo's Waterfront Park was built in the '70s and is failing to stabilize the shoreline.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / North Kitsap Herald

POULSBO — It was an annual check-in between two governments that largely occupy the same territory. While one represents the city, and the other, Poulsbo's port, the two organizations could not deny that they face the same enemy: time.

"We both know we got a problem," Mayor Becky Erickson said at the June 4 joint meeting of the City Council and Port Commission. "We need to sit down jointly and figure out how this is going to work."

Of chief concern to both parties is the shoreline at Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront Park. The seawall along the shoreline consists of "riprap," a form of armoring that uses large rocks to stabilize the shoreline. But as time passes, the wall's effectiveness is weakening.

"It's fill with riprap that was built in the '70s," Port Commissioner Jim Rutledge said. "It essentially is failing, over time. The water goes in and percolates into the adjacent land, and as the tide goes out, the material goes out and this causes a break down of the wall."

The result puts the park's border at risk as silt and other material flows from under the city-owned park's surface and into the port-owned marina.

On top of the seawall is a cement facade that is also showing the signs of breakdown.

"The cement wall down there is just cement slabs sitting on top of the riprap," Rutledge said. "If you look at the walkway down there you can see, right at the base of railing, where the railing is separating from the walkway. And the wall itself is slumping into the marina."

Rutledge said enough silt has come into the bay that the floating dock nearest the shore is grounded during low tides.

On the other side, portions of Waterfront Park could be at risk of sliding off into the bay.

"We don't want to lose our park," Erickson said. "And the port doesn't need all that silt and debris falling into their moorage space. The question is, where do we come up with the funding to fix it.” She said dealing with shoreline permits and engineering is far more tricky than with upland construction.

Erickson said the city's engineering team is working with Port Manager Brad Miller. The first step, she said, is that the two governments will seek a specialist in shoreline engineering to form a plan for whatever solution fits best. The solution will likely come with two approaches: fixing the wall itself, and dredging near the marina.

"We will ultimately have to fix the wall or float the marina further out into the bay," Rutledge said, noting that moving the marina is really not an option. The port has an ongoing permit that allows it to conduct maintenance dredging which it will likely do at some point.

"The need for dredging is such is that it will be difficult for boats to get around the north end (of the marina) within a small number of years," Rutledge said. “Doing that dredging doesn't make a lot of sense if the wall is still sliding into it. We are going to have to put in hard armoring."

The shoreline wall that is visible to passersby was constructed in 2006. The city's original intent, at the time, was to create a more stabilizing structure. But engineering and construction permits for the shoreline proved difficult to obtain. The city, however, had time-sensitive grant funding for work at the park's edge. With time running out, the city constructed the aesthetic wall that stands there today.

"(It) was not what we needed to do, we needed something structural," Erickson said. "To make sure the boulders are not falling into the bay."



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