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Work on Killebrew Lake Road culvert repair begins July 10 on Orcas Island

Killebrew Lake Rd Closure

SAN JUAN COUNTY, WA. May 31, 2023 – The County will begin a project to replace a culvert on Killebrew Lake Road, just east of Laporte Road. The FEMA-funded project will install a 12-foot-wide box culvert, specially designed to improve fish passage to Bayhead Creek and withstand significant storms. 

Work will begin on July 10 and continue for approximately two to three months. During this time, Killebrew Lake Road will be closed to through traffic. The detour route will be via Orcas Road, McNallie Lane, and Dolphin Bay Road.  

“This much-needed project updates our critical infrastructure, while prioritizing the health and vitality of our stream systems,” said Kendra Smith, the County’s Environmental Stewardship Director. “This is a great example of the County’s commitment to environmental stewardship through thoughtful engineering.”   

Project History:   

A storm in January of 2020 damaged the previous culvert under Killebrew Lake Road. With consultation from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), San Juan County immediately replaced the 24-inch culvert with the long-term goal of installing a more permanent, fish-passable culvert in the future. Now, the Public Works Department has contracted with Matia Contractors from Ferndale to install the new culvert. The project is funded by emergency response and replacement funds from FEMA.

Project Timeline: 

The project will begin July 10 and is expected to be completed by the end of September. 

Project Information: 

Construction work will occur during regular working hours with no work being done on the weekends. 

2 comments

  • Daniel Thieme Tuesday, 06 June 2023 14:58 Comment Link Report

    Open Letter to Councilperson Cindy Wolf - June 5, 2023

    Dear Councilperson Wolf:

    I am writing to request a phone discussion, as soon as possible, between you and the Board of Directors of the Harney View Park and Road Association, to discuss the need for a traffic bypass for the planned two-to-three-month closure of Killebrew Lake Road, between the Orcas ferry terminal and all points east of the ferry terminal. As you know, this closure is currently set to commence on July 10, 2023, but was first announced to the community last week. For ease of reference, here is the County’s announcement: https://www.sanjuanco.com/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=1397.

    We assume that the County is being required to undertake this project due to fish-passage regulatory issues, and we are not objecting to the project itself. What we do strenuously object to is the failure of the planning process to consider or address the very significant hardships and impacts that the proposed detour route will have on residents, businesses, service providers and emergency response. The decision to not devote resources to providing a traffic bypass was wrong, and should be reversed.

    Please let me know what time would work for a call, at your earliest available opportunity.

    Who We Are, And the Interests We Represent. I am a constituent of yours, registered to vote at my home at 112 Hummingbird Lane, Orcas, WA 98280. I am also a member of the Board of Directors, and the Secretary, of the Harney View Park and Road Association, the homeowners’ association in which my home is located. The other members of our Board are Jacques Retief (President), and Alan Shulman (Vice-President), both copied here.

    The Harney View Park and Road Association encompasses 30 homes located a third of a mile to the east of this culvert project. The homes in our association are accessed from the south side of Killebrew Lake Road, using either Old Farm Road or Grindstone Harbor Road. From our neighborhood, we currently drive 1.2 miles west on Killebrew Lake Road (a well-maintained, chip-sealed two lane County road) to reach the Orcas ferry landing, our post office near the ferry landing (mail delivery is not provided to our neighborhood, so we must visit this post office to receive our mail), our neighborhood grocery store (the Orcas Village Store, at the ferry landing), and our neighborhood restaurant at the Orcas Hotel (also at the ferry landing). Likewise, off-island service providers access our neighborhood by driving 1.2 miles east from the ferry landing. Emergency response (ambulance and paramedics) is dispatched from Eastsound and uses Orcas Road and Killebrew Lake Road to access our neighborhood. The County proposes to terminate this access for two to three months during the summer high season.

    I am sure that our neighborhood’s concerns are shared by all other residents who live off Killebrew Lake Road, to the east of the Orcas ferry landing. I do not know the total number of your constituents who are so situated, but I would estimate it is over 200.

    Is a Bypass Road Possible to Do? Yes, it is. Jeff Sharp, Deputy County Engineer, has told me that a bypass was not possible due to project conditions. But the County is well aware that a bypass road is not only feasible, but already exists, in the form of a private drive on the south side of the road, which connects to Killebrew Lake Road on each side of the proposed road closure. We are not suggesting that the County should route traffic over our neighbor’s existing drive. But we must point out that any claim that a bypass route is not feasible from an engineering or technical standpoint is baseless. This is an issue of impacts, costs and hardships, and who should bear them, not a question of feasibility.

    We have heard that the County approached at least one of the neighbors to request that they voluntarily accommodate a bypass. But when they declined, the County took no further action. We don’t blame a neighbor for declining to offer free use of their property, but free use is not the issue. Project funds should be obtained and used to properly compensate the neighbor for any use of their property that is required for the construction of a bypass road.

    Given that a bypass would be plainly feasible, we must conclude that someone in the planning process made a decision, without public input, to avoid incurring the expense of a bypass road. This decision failed to account for the hardships this will impose, and improperly shifted what should be project costs onto the backs of your constituents who happen to live to the east of this project, as well as on businesses and service providers. This decision was wrong.

    A Detour is Available. Why is That Not Adequate? Our current access to the ferry landing, over Killebrew Lake Road, is a 1.2 mile drive over a well-maintained, chip-sealed two-lane County road. The County proposes that, for two to three months, we will be forced to use a 30- to 45-minute detour that includes 4.8 miles of dangerous, single-lane, unimproved gravel road (Dolphin Bay Road).

    Per the County’s announcement, the proposed detour is via Dolphin Bay Road, McNallie Lane, and Orcas Road. This proposed detour is 11 miles in length, with a Google Maps estimated transit time, assuming “light” traffic, of 30 minutes. But the mileage of the detour is only part of the problem. The primary problem is that the detour includes 4.8 miles of Dolphin Bay Road, which is a narrow, single lane, undulating and winding gravel road that is normally used by only a very sparsely-populated part of the island, and is commonly in disrepair from even that light use. We had to drive that detour two years ago when Killebrew Lake Road had to be temporarily closed at this same spot. From that experience, we know that detouring traffic from Killebrew Lake Road to Dolphin Bay Road will result in 10-mile-per-hour slogs as traffic backs up behind drivers who are not comfortable exceeding that speed on that road, and stopped traffic as drivers have to reverse course because cars going opposite directions are unable to drive past each other on many sections of this single-lane road. Add to this the multiple trips per day of Federal Express and UPS delivery trucks. Add to this the truck traffic for residential construction projects that are currently underway to the east of this culvert project. The result, based on our experience, will be slow, uncomfortable transits that will regularly exceed 45 minutes in length.

    This will not impact just the residents’ time. It will also impact the residents economically, from increased labor costs, increased delivery costs, cancelled services, and increased driving costs. Those costs should not be specially imposed on the residents.

    Further, the ferry system, as you know, is part of the state’s highway system. Reasonable access to the ferry is critical, especially in the summer, and in light of the ongoing reliability issues the ferry system is experiencing.

    Were these factors considered? Was any kind of traffic study done? Was the impact on the Dolphin Bay Road roadbed of radically increasing the traffic flow for three months evaluated? We see no evidence that any of these issues were considered in the planning process.

    What Are the Emergency Response and Medical Care Concerns? Ambulance and EMT emergency response for our neighborhood is typically dispatched from Eastsound. For the reasons already noted, requiring emergency response to detour over Dolphin Bay Road could easily add 10 to 15 minutes to the response time, which could make the difference in a life or death situation.

    I also know from personal experience that we at times confront emergency medical situations that require prompt transport by car and ferry to the hospital at Anacortes. Adding 30 to 45 minutes to our drive to the ferry could have an immense adverse impact in such a situation.

    The County should consider not only the health of its residents, but also it liability exposure in connection with these concerns.

    Will the Road Really Be Closed 24/7 for 2-3 Months? Yes, it will. I spoke on Friday with Jeff Sharp, the Deputy County Engineer. He confirmed that this will be a complete closure, with no bypass provided for vehicles or even pedestrians. The County’s announcement states the work will continue for “approximately two to three months,” and states the road will be closed “Monday, July 10 – Friday, September 29.” The bid solicitation documents stated an expectation of 45 working days (nine weeks) for the project.

    Other Than Residents, Who Will This Affect? This road closure will have a major impact on the businesses at the ferry landing, particularly the newly-thriving Orcas Hotel Restaurant, and the Village Store grocery store. I am sure that a large part of those businesses’ sales comes from residents who live east of the ferry landing off Killebrew Lake Road. If those residents are forced to detour to the north over Dolphin Bay Road to reach a grocery store or restaurant, that detour will drop them on Orcas Road at McNallie Lane. From there it will be shorter to drive to Eastsound, with its much larger grocery store and many more restaurants, than to drive down to the ferry landing. This unanticipated loss of business for a three-month period, during the summer season, will have a significant negative impact on these businesses located next to the ferry terminal.

    The detour will also substantially impact off-island service providers, who use the ferry access to provide maintenance, construction, repair, and delivery services to our neighborhood, and who are already struggling with unreliable ferry service and the heavy ferry loads during the summer. There will be cancelled services and deliveries and greatly increased costs and hardship to local residents.

    Conclusion. We assume you were unaware of this issue until recently. We certainly had no idea this was being considered, and there appears to have been no public process leading up to this point. We hope that you will agree with us that the costs, impacts and hardships required to provide a general public benefit – fish passage – should be borne by the taxpayers generally, by incurring the cost of constructing a temporary bypass route. It is neither fair not appropriate to specially impose these very significant hardships on residents, businesses and service providers. The planning process, in this regard, was inadequate and unreasonable. It also failed to provide any avenue for public input, or reasonable advance notice to the residents. We look forward to discussing with you how this incorrect decision can be reversed.

    Daniel Thieme
    Board Member and Secretary, Harney View Park and Road Association
    Resident, 112 Hummingbird Lane, Orcas
    (c) 206.910.5913

  • Douglas Gainor Saturday, 03 June 2023 11:07 Comment Link Report

    I live on white beach rd and with this almost 3 month road closure it will make my trip to the ferry a 40min trip instead of 5 min!!!! I would think that you should have at least a one lane way to get thru. I know fish are important, what about people???

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