With the onset of drier weather the pace of construction has increased. Thompson Brothers Excavating, the prime contractor from Vancouver, Washington, will bring on additional crews and machinery early next week. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has given final approval on the cleanup plan for the two former mill sites just north of Front Street in Tillamook. Clearing and grubbing of the mill sites is just about finished but continues elsewhere on the 640 acre project site. The new crew will begin excavation and disposal of contaminated soils as well as removal of the surrounding clean soils that will help with the discharge flood waters.
Approximately 234,000 cubic yards of material will be removed or reused as part of this project. The clean soils will be reused in the construction of setback levees, filling of old drainage ditches or spread out on adjoining farmland where landowners are willing to receive it. The purpose for filling the old ditches is to allow natural drainage channels to reform in a more serpentine manner, thereby producing better salmon habitat. Once the levees surrounding the project area are removed, ancient tidal channels will be reconnected to the rivers and the new tidal channels will become established. This project is expected to create approximately 14 miles of new or reconnected tidal channels that will then serve as critical over-wintering habitat for juvenile coho and other fish. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has just completed the removal of any remaining salmon in the old ditches so that filling of those ditches may now begin.
Construction of the 2 ½ miles of new setback levees has also started. Core material soils for these levees are being place in 1 foot lifts so they can dry out prior to compacting and covering. These levees are located to protect adjoining farmland from the daily tides that will soon regularly inundate much of the new flood corridor.
A substantial amount of concrete is also being demolished and removed from the old mills and former buildings on the site. Most of this concrete will be placed outside the project area in nearby cow pads that have received permits as elevated refuge islands for cows to escape rising waters during floods.
Despite all the activity since February within the project area, an eagle’s nest adjoining the site is once again home to two young eaglets who don’t seem too eager to leave home as young adults. Regular monitoring of the nest is continuing to occur. Once the eaglets fledge, the work hour restrictions within the buffer area surrounding the nest will be lifted and work can proceed throughout daylight hours as with the remainder of the project area. The eagle’s nest will continue to be protected for future use by the longtime resident nesting parents.
As one of the largest projects of this type ever constructed in the northwest, regular visits are made by state and federal agency staff to monitor progress. Representatives from DEQ were on site last week and officials from the NOAA Fisheries will tour the project next week. For safety reasons, the public is not permitted within the project area until construction is completed.