Waterfront trail repairs to begin

Popular Vancouver path was damaged by high Columbia River waters in 2011

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Work on one of two sections of the Waterfront Renaissance Trail wiped out by high river levels in 2011 will start Monday, but a more costly section will have to wait at least one year.

In the spring of 2011, snowmelt and heavy rain drove the Columbia River to its highest levels since 1997, said Dan Swensen, the engineering and construction services manager for the city's public works department. Slope erosion left two sections of the five-mile-long trail in the area of Tidewater Cove unusable. The sections had been built in 1999 by private developers and deeded to the city, Swensen said.

Walkers and runners wanting to make it to the end of the trail at Wintler Park have been detoured along Columbia Way.

Keystone Construction of Ridgefield submitted the lowest responsive bid of $271,000. Project manager Mike Shaw said work will start Monday on stabilizing the eroded area closest to the Tidewater jetty.

Swensen said the work has to be done now, during the annual low-water period, but one reason it has taken the city more than two years to begin fixing the damage was the permits involved. The work had to be vetted by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the state Department of Ecology, National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and it took more than 10 months to get permission from the Corps, Swensen said.

The work includes repairing about 80 horizontal feet of failed slope, reinforcing another 250 horizontal feet of slope, removing and replacing 170 feet of paved trail and adding more than 11,000 plantings, Swensen said. The plantings include dogwood and willow trees and a mix of grasses.

Previously, the slopes had been populated with blackberry bushes, but best practices for stabilizing slopes have changed over the years, he said.

The second damaged portion, which sits in front of Tidewater Cove condominiums, will cost an estimated $2 million to fix, he said, and the funding has not been approved.

The money, like the $271,000 to fix the first damaged portion, will come out of the city's general fund.

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt said Thursday it was unfortunate the trail took the brunt of Mother Nature's force, but thousands of residents enjoy the paved walkway every year, and it needs to be reopened.

The general fund pays for basic services such as police, fire and roads, as well as repairs to community assets.

Spacing out the repair work, Leavitt said, serves as a great example of the delicate balancing act the city must do in prioritizing services with maintenance and repairs when there's not enough money in the budget to do all of the work immediately.

Loretta Callahan, spokeswoman for the public works department, said due to safety concerns, the trail will remain closed in the Tidewater Cove area until both sections are repaired.

Permits are being sought to repair the second section, Swensen said.

In that area, work will include replacing more than 400 feet of trail and stabilizing an additional 900 feet to prevent further failure, Callahan said.

If the city council approves repairing the second section, the earliest work could start would be this time next year during the low-water period, Swensen said.


Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com