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Culvert work may close 305 in summer ’09

POULSBO — Although closing Highway 305, Poulsbo’s main traffic artery, isn’t ideal for North Enders, local fish runs need accessible thoroughfares too.

Thursday morning at Poulsbo Fire Department, city, county and state representatives discussed the ideal closing periods for the highway to install two replacement culverts between Poulsbo and Suquamish.

Although the ideal time frame for commuters is “never,” for the salmon it’s in the “fish window” between July and August 2009, said Brenden Clarke, project engineer for Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). During this time fish aren’t running through the cement culverts which connect streams to the rest of salmon spawning routes.

However, residents’ annual events such as Poulsbo’s Third of July celebration and the annual Tribal Canoe Journey, hosted by the Suquamish Tribe in mid-summer, falls in the same time frame. Sherry Appleton, 23rd legislative district representative, who was in attendance, mentioned both as concerns.

“Bella Luna and all those (Suquamish) businesses really suffered from what happened this summer,” Appleton said, referring to the Augusta Road construction which rerouted traffic from the downtown core throughout August. “To do that to them two years in a row that really bothers me.”

The ideal detour route, suggested by Clark, is from Suquamish to Totten Road to Widme Road to Lincoln Road. Traffic from the 305 detour, Appleton said, would deter people once again from giving business to Suquamish’s downtown core, including Bella Luna Pizzeria.

“We are working with a very small window. We only have one fish window,” Clark said, adding the time frame was set by Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Putting it off a year then doesn’t make it easier,” said Christine Rolfes, 23rd legislative district representative, who was also in attendance.

The current culverts, called the Bjorgen Creek Fish Barrier and another that connects an un-named tributary to Liberty Bay Fish Barrier, are more than 50 years old and no longer are fit fish habitat, Clark said. Between last years’ December storm and typical wear and tear, the culverts moved significantly.

“It’s not just a fish issue but a stability of 305 issue,” he said.

The ideal length of time to repair both culverts is two weeks, which could replace both culverts at once or have two closures of one week for separate replacements.

“If there is any way to make the two-week closure into a seven days, that’s the way to go,” said Steve Bauer, current North End commissioner.

Clark said he estimates the detour to add another 10 minutes to the typical drive on Highway 305.

“For the duration of the work have people allow 10 minutes more to get to the ferries,” he said.

WSDOT has $5 million in the budget to replace both culverts.

Clark said the culverts are placed on the high priority list by WDFW.

“I agree these are high priority,” Appleton said. “But people are high priority too.”

Officials voiced another meeting will take place next month to review all options. No date was confirmed at the meeting.

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