By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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That’s what Tom Bourque, director of engineering for Seattle-based Herrera Environmental Consultants — which is designing the bluff-stabilization project — told the City Council at a work session Tuesday night.
The bluff-stabilization project is intended to keep decades of accumulated city waste at the closed landfill at the west end of 18th Street from falling 135 feet down into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Strips of the bluff that are as narrow as 11 feet in places are holding back the stockpiled detritus now, City Engineer Mike Puntenney told the council and an audience of about 14 members of the public.
“The bluff is a thin veneer, and behind it is this mountain of garbage,” Puntenney said.
Bourque said it would take between $15 million and $20 million to move a portion of the waste accumulated in the closed landfill from one section to another, and to augment a concrete seawall already supporting the base of a section of bluff below the landfill.
The waste would be shifted to reduce the danger of it falling into the Strait, Bourque added.
The city would fund the project in part through the municipal bonding process and proposed fee increases for hauling waste to the city’s regional transfer station, which is at the closed landfill, Puntenney said.
The city also could get a helping hand from the state Department of Ecology, said Peter Lyons, the solid-waste manager for the agency’s southwest regional office, which encompasses the North Olympic Peninsula.
Lyons told the council that Ecology asked for about $4 million for the city’s landfill-stabilization efforts in the governor’s 2013-2015 biennium budget.
Final decision later
A final decision on this and other requests will not come from the state Legislature until later this year.
“We hope this will be carried through the lengthy budget process that’s to come,” Lyons said.
At the suggestion of council members Max Mania and Sissi Bruch, the City Council allowed a period of public comment, something typically not done at work sessions.
“I think we would benefit from as much public input from as many people as possible as soon as possible,” Mania said.
“I think it would be the most respectful thing we can do tonight,” Councilman Patrick Downie added.
Blyn resident Francisco de La Cruz told council members he wanted to see work on the bluff stabilization move quickly since garbage falling into the Strait would affect more than just city residents.
“I would hate to have to explain to Victoria why our trash is in the water,” de La Cruz said.
The stabilization plan would move the buried garbage in the section of the city landfill closest to the Strait of Juan de Fuca to another area of the landfill, which has not accepted new waste since 2007.
About half of the garbage in this section, which holds about 750,000 cubic yards of waste, would be moved to a larger landfill section just east of the cell, Puntenney explained.
The larger section, called cell 351, would be reopened and repermitted through the state Department of Ecology to accept more garbage, Puntenney said, and would be able to hold roughly 750,000 more cubic yards without increasing the section’s footprint.
In addition to moving the garbage, which Bourque estimated would be the most expensive part of the stabilization project, Herrera Environmental Consultants recommended augmenting the concrete seawall at the toe of bluff with more concrete on the east and woody debris on the west.
Bourque said this would cut erosion.
Anne Shaffer, executive director of the city-based Coastal Watershed Institute, said later that more shoreline armoring would exacerbate bluff erosion to the east of the seawall.
She said the city instead should seek grants to move the accumulated garbage off-site.
“Rather than addressing the real problem, they keep looking at this old-school, armor-the-shore solution,” Shaffer said.
“They’re ultimately going to have to deal with the landfill anyway.”
Herrera has estimated in the past that trucking away all the garbage in cell 304 would cost more than $71 million.
City Council members will hear public comment when the issue is brought before them Feb. 19, then consider recommendations in March.
For more information, visit http://tinyurl.com/LandfillBluff.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.