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State Route 305 culvert closure delayed until 2010.

POULSBO — A State Route 305 culvert repair project in Poulsbo slated for the end of summer has been pushed back by city and Department of Transportation officials until 2010.

The $3.5 million project would have closed the highway near Noll Road for two weeks during August and September. Area leaders held a series of meetings to determine the best detour for the closure, but ultimately decided to push the project back a year, due largely to an already turbulent summer schedule. The Hood Canal Bridge will be closed for six weeks beginning in May, thousands are expected to gather in Suquamish in August for a canoe journey event and North Kitsap School District students head back to class at just the time the project was planned.

North Kitsap School District spokesperson Chris Case encouraged the council to delay the project, so it could be done when 30 school busses shuffling 4,000 kids aren’t needing to weave through a detour.

The project must also fall in line with a July-August fish window, during which fish aren’t running through the cement culverts that connect streams to the rest of salmon spawning routes and other natural habitat.

Kevin Dayton, Olympic Region administrator for the DOT, said funding for the project was set up in a biannual budget period, so a year-long delay shouldn’t equal a monetary loss — though, he pointed out, the current construction market is at a competitive pricing peak.

Poulsbo city council members voted to defer the construction, admitting the project’s risky timeframe against the end of a fish window.

“A bazillion things could cause this to go south,” councilwoman Connie Lord said.

Culverts at Bjorgen and Lemolo creeks will be replaced with larger systems to allow salmon to swim upstream. The current culverts are more than 50 years old and are no longer fit for fish habitats after suffering recent storms and typical wear and tear.

When the project does occur, traffic will be detoured to Lincoln, Widme and Totten roads, as was approved by the council.

DOT Biology Branch manager Paul Wagner said the project’s suspension will mean another year of troubled access to fresh water for area salmon. The department has identified 1,400 fish barriers throughout the state that need to be removed, these culverts being two of them.

“This is part of a statewide effort that we have of correcting fish barriers,” Wagner noted. “It’s an important program in the department.”

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