Construction Update 10/24/16

Despite a few challenges, project work for 2016 is drawing to a close. The recent storm, which included extreme high tides and storm surge, caused some overtopping of the remnant summer levees as well as a few breaches. In anticipation of the storm, a temporary coffer dam was constructed at the East end of the project area to close off the opening in the middle levee where the new gated spillway is under construction. This action by Thompson Bros. Excavating, Inc. (TBE) confined storm waters to the interior project area and off of adjoining private lands. SFC project managers and TBE actively monitored the site during the storm.

While one TBE crew is busy with final shaping of the south levee, other crews are grass seeding and installing coir matting and fabric over the sides and top of the north and middle levees as well as over the recently completed repairs to the Hall Slough Levee. The middle levee gated spillway is formed and rebar tied in place. The first concrete pour was completed on October 21. The final concrete pour is slated for October 26. The six floodgates will be hung on the spillway as soon as concrete tests demonstrate the desired strength; likely in a week following the final pour.

Excavation of contaminated soil at the former mill sites is also nearly complete. The discovery of 300 cubic yards of asbestos roofing caused some delays while specially-trained crews were brought in to wrap and dispose of the material at a licensed facility. Despite the excavation and hauling of additional solid waste mixed with soils contaminated with decades-old machine lubricants, TBE completed the placement of soils in the containment cell last weekend. There are still several weeks of installing the vent pipes, welding a geotextile membrane and then capping the cell with 18 inches of topsoil. Using funds provided by the City of Tillamook, TBE will also construct a gravel parking lot on top of the east side of the cell for public recreational access to the newly restored wetland and Hoquarten Slough. Hydro seeding of exposed topsoil will complete the cell’s construction.

Some of the summer levees along the Wilson River were recently removed just prior to the recent storm in a location that is not hydrologically connected to the remaining project area. As a result of recent storms and extreme tides, this breached area is already showing promising response to tidal exchanges, resulting in widening and deepening of the reconnected channels. Although the south end of the bay tends to be dominated by freshwater during this time of year, as expected the return of brackish water in the spring and summer will bring about a change in vegetative cover to more of a saltwater marsh over much of the project area.

Within the remainder of the 521-acre portion of the project that will soon become subject to daily tidal inundation, TBE crews are finishing the removal of old fence posts, utility poles, and other man-made remnants. Prior to the final breaching of the remaining summer levees along the Trask and Wilson rivers, crews have to complete a “punch list” that includes final interconnections of ancient sloughs, removal of a few legacy tide gates and final filling of the remaining drainage ditches. TBE expects to begin final breaching this week. This will coincide well with a series of tides that are expected to remain below 7 feet elevation at high tide. TBE will work three crews day and night breaching the levees down to the final design height of 8 feet Mean Sea Level. As levees are removed, crews will also reconnect existing and ancient channels to the river and bay at depths that result in a positive gradient for runoff. Work will not occur in the water but the equipment will operate only when tide levels are below the work area. TBE expects the breaching to take four to five days.

The removal of these levees is the project element that is expected to provide the most flood reduction. Work for 2016 is expected to be completed by mid-November. The remaining work scheduled for midsummer 2017 will be summarized in the next project update.