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Madrona Way close to edge

"Madrona Way reportThe report on the Madrona Way project, Rural Geologic and Coastal Geologic Evaluation for Madrona Way Road Realignment Project, is available from Greenbelt Consulting, 341-3433 or from Island County, 678-5111.The Madrona Way drive along Penn Cove from San De Fuca to Coupeville may take a few more curves in the future. Damage just north of Coupeville from the winter storms of 1996 narrowed the bluff and brought the road a little too close to the edge. During the big storms we had some slides. We did some remedial work, but some portions are very close to the edge. We need to realign the road farther in land, said Donna Keeler senior planner for the Island County department of public works. It's a small section, no more than one quarter mile long. Maybe even less than that.The project is about 800 feet of road improvement, said Randy Brackett, construction engineer with the Island County Department of Public Works Road Division.Immediately after the storms, the county took emergency steps to stabilize the bluff and protect the road. We dumped quarry spalls - large rocks - over the side. That stabilized the slope pretty well. It's not the most aesthetic solution. Especially from the other side of the cove, Brackett said. But we're seeing some cracks in the road bed suggesting it's settling some.There are at least two aspects to the proposed project, said Brackett, getting the road away from the bluff and stabilizing the bluff itself. We're interested in moving the road back away from that slope. We're working on obtaining some property to do that, Bracket said. What adds to the mix and makes it more interesting here is the property owners on the inland side also own the property down to the water's edge. We have an easement for the road.Brackett said the county faces a delicate project involving private property rights, transportation, environmental protection, historic value and community interest.The issue is stewardship, said Brackett. That whole bluff really belongs to the whole community at large. But we're not trying to establish a mandate. These people value their shoreline access. We met with the property owners about a year ago. As a group they don't want any impact. This is a delicate area. We need an education effort to get property owners valuing how slope stabilization can occur through vegetation control. The more we can preserve the bluffs the way they are, the better we're served.Saving madonesPart of that vegetation control will involve attending to the trees that give the road its name. With recent reports of disease in madrones, county officials first looked at whether the trees were sick and needed to be taken down. As part of our environmental analysis we hired Elliott Menashe, owner of Greenbelt Consulting of Langley, to give us a vegetation report, Keeler said. Elliott had a madrone expert come up and walk the site. Menashe brought in Marianne Elliott from the University of Washington College of Forest Resources and Karen Ripley, forest health expert with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to take a look at the trees. The county's concern was, why protect them if they're going to die? Marianne and Karen concurred with me, those trees are not a total loss, not a loss at all, Menashe said. My report recommended that they dedicate the abandoned area to native trees.The county listened to the three forest and tree scientists and decided to focus on saving the trees.Our preliminary design makes sure that none of the big trees will have to come down. I can't think of any other area where madrones have been an issue. We don't have many left unfortunately, Keeler said.Brackett agrees efforts should aim at saving the trees.We need to have a consensus and an understanding on this project, Brackett said. Not being a bluff edge property owner my opinion may not be worth much, but to me the view through trees is better than a completely open view. As far as people cutting down trees for views, I have to assume this is part of their dream. While if you lived for a while with the trees in the foreground you'd find it's stimulating, would get more out of it. Road's historicMadrona Way, which originally connected the settlement of Coveland to San de Fuca, is one of the oldest roads on Whidbey Island. It is also designated a National Scenic Byway. Once the road is moved back, the bluff must be attended to since wave action will continually erode it from below. For stabilizing the bluff itself the county has considered a number of options. A rip-rap wall was proposed, 600 feet of that, but it simply would not be acceptable because of its impact on the shoreline and wildlife, smelt, oysters and juvenile salmon for example, Brackett said. What we're exploring carefully is a woody debris revetment (wall), stumps and roots interlaced and embedded in the sand. It imitates nature. They absorb the energy from the wave action and break it up.Another consideration for the Madrona Way project is what to do with run-off. So far the design calls for the project to provide drainage collection, some treatment and then discharging the filtered water through pipes down to the beach at Penn Cove. The design will use simple techniques such as grassy swales and a box on the beach.Swales are very effective for filtering out vehicle emission. Then what we do is put a box at the bottom so the water splashes into the box rather than digging a hole in the beach, Brackett said.While swales are well established in Washington for dealing with runoff the wood debris wall is another story. County planners are approaching the idea with caution.It's a pretty new approach, Brackett said. As with things that are new we need to be sure we're investigating all the risks. We've had a hiatus on the project as we try to get our arms around the solution.The actual work on the road and bluff is still some time away, said Brackett.Our next steps are approaching the property owners and delivering our design ideas in a manner that protects their property. We're expecting that this project will take some time yet. We still have the challenge of getting through the regulatory process. We're not going to be constructing anything for a year at least.Said Brackett: It's an innovative project for us, given that the neighbors own both sides of the road and shoreline sensitivity and madrone sensitivity. With new environmental regulations we're challenged to be more creative with it. "

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