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Carpenter Creek culvert replacement under discussion

KINGSTON — It's been a culvert conversion commitment for South Kingston Road since 2001.

And hopefully by the end of April 2009 a decision on how to proceed with replacing the 12-foot Carpenter Creek estuary culvert with a 70-foot bridge will have been reached.

Replacing the culvert is a renowned project of importance, as the narrow culvert prevents the estuary from flushing as it should, pinches off intertidal flow and negatively impacts fish and marine mammals.

"Carpenter Creek flows through one of the last intact estuaries of the Kitsap Peninsula," explained Patty Charnas, manager of the county's Department of Community Development Environmental Programs division. "It supports multiple species. There is a very healthy undeveloped forest on the fringe. It provides water quality benefits. Carpenter Creek can be restored to to support our endangered salmon stock."

Project funding is in place: $619,000 from the state's Salmon Recovery Fund Board, $637,000 from the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program and just recently secured federal dollars specifically earmarked for this project.

In fact the South Kingston culvert was listed by name as a line-item in the federal budget.

But there's a caveat.

The Army Corp of Engineers is the agency responsible for design and construction. In the last eight years, the Corp of has completed the design work, but has yet to begin construction. In 2007 major flooding in December prevented the Corp from following through on the project and state funding for the project was nearly lost.

"It has been a commitment with the Corp of hurry up and wait for a long time," Charnas said. "The state and local county government have been working to ensure the nonfederal match for the Corp to do this project. The problem is the funds ($619,000) acquired by the county to provide the nonfederal match are expiring in June."

However, both Charnas and Stillwaters Environmental Center Director Naomi Maasberg, who's been involved since 2001, assure the culvert will be replaced.

Maasberg said the Corp is writing an agreement to be signed with the county and once the agreement — if signed before June — is in place, this locks in the Corp's commitment and $619,000 in state funds.

"We've been at this project since 2001. The bridge will probably be built in 2010," Maasberg said.

Charnas is concerned about the Corp's ability to follow through, as she said they'll be consumed with stimulus projects.

She said another option for the project is to have the county take over responsibility, which requires approval by the Kitsap County Board of Commissioner. If the vote were a yes the only way the county could make the bridge happen is if a stimulus grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were approved. The grant application — a beastly 20- to 50- page document according to Charnas — would have to be submitted in April, and there is no guarantee NOAA will approve funding.

Charnas presented this to the commissioners on March 18.

"There was concern about losing the hard-won project assistance from the Corps of Engineers should stimulus monies be obtained by the county for project construction. To that end, we will maintain both options until we know for sure the outcome of the grant application," Charnas wrote in an e-mail after meeting with the commissioners. "Discussions with the Corps revealed that the Seattle District will not know until the end of April whether they are fully funded to do the project. They are aware of the County's application for potential stimulus funds. The timing of both seems to result in an end-of-April decision as to how ultimately the project gets completed."

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