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Coupeville bluff erosion declared an emergency

Coupeville town staff cordon off a Front Street trail threatened by bluff erosion. - Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times
Coupeville town staff cordon off a Front Street trail threatened by bluff erosion.
— image credit: Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times

Erosion of the bluff on Northeast Front Street in Coupeville appears to have slowed over the past week, but the town council has decided to declare the situation an emergency.

The declaration was approved by unanimous vote at the council’s regular meeting Feb. 12 and was something of a housekeeping measure as it authorized Mayor Nancy Conard’s earlier steps to address the situation.

It also empowers Conard to sign other contracts concerning the issue as the need may arise without having to first get council approval.

Earlier this month, the section of bluff began to rapidly erode and threaten a gravel sidewalk and the road.

Conard acted independently by hiring a geotechnical engineering company to evaluation the situation, determine why the erosion was occurring and come up with possible solutions.

The firm, Kirkland-based Associated Earth Sciences, Inc., was contracted for a sum of $6,760. A surveyor also was hired for $5,800.

According to town engineer Greg Cane, high tides have continued to eat away at the bluff. The review by the geotechnical firm settled fears that the erosion would accelerate beyond control.

“He kinda put our minds at ease. He said, ‘You’ve got time,’” Cane said.

One possible fix would be to firm up the bluff using the earth retention technique known as Soldier Piles. Basically, “H” piles are pounded into the ground vertically and boards are placed between the two trees of each pile.

But Cane said town officials won’t decide what to do until the geotechnical firm releases a more detailed analysis later this month.

 

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