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Island County outlines plan for Ala Spit

The county has released the preliminary plan to complete the restoration of Ala Spit, a move some claim creates a public safety issue. - Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times
The county has released the preliminary plan to complete the restoration of Ala Spit, a move some claim creates a public safety issue.
— image credit: Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times

A preliminary plan for the restoration of Ala Spit County Park was approved Monday with the aim of making the area more hospitable to salmon.

While the initiative has been applauded by conservationists, some say the work has created a safety hazard for park visitors.

Island County removed 800 feet of rock and crushed concrete from a center portion of the spit in 2012 in order to restore it to its original state. The intent was to repair the salmon habitat made vulnerable by erosion caused by the blockage.

Removal of the bridge-like rocks have made the spit, at high tide, intraversable. Last year, at least two near-drownings occurred when fishermen attempted to cross the spit at full moon high tides.

Island County commissioners approved an early plan to continue the restoration process of the spit, a project that should increase the food production for the area’s salmon.

The commissioners’ vote provided $50,000 in additional funding from the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund, and moves the project into its final design stage. Project total with the additional money is $78,350.

Dawn Pucci, the county’s salmon recovery coordinator, said that the neck of the spit has always dipped below the water at high tide or during weather events.

“In ecology terms, it’s not a public safety issue,” Pucci said. “It’s always done that.”

Pucci said the topography did change a bit when the rock was removed, causing a little more water to wash over the spit than previously.

However, Pucci said, that’s just the natural flow of the water and that those visiting Ala Spit should exercise caution.

“That’s how the system works,” Pucci said. “But a couple times a month, it doesn’t coincide with people’s recreational plans.”

The county has placed signage at the park stating: “Tidal flow can cause swift and deep water which will prevent crossing.”

As currently outlined, the project will remove the majority of the remaining rock, the bulkhead will be removed and the shore will be regraded to improved accessibility. The edge of the parking lot will also be pulled back to increase the shore area. Pucci said the parking lot will not lose the number of spots, but will just use the space more efficiently.

“It will be interesting to watch it change,” Pucci said. “There’s going to be a lot of learning going on there.”

The county will now complete a feasibility study, evaluating options for the rock and bulkhead removal, and move forward with bid documents and permitting.

The state’s Salmon Recovery Plan ranks Ala Spit in the highest priority for early rearing of wild migrant Chinook salmon.

 

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