Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Fish bearing streams under State Routes 302 and 16 in Pierce County getting a makeover

By Cara Mitchell

Two multi-year projects to improve fish habitat in both Little Minter Creek and Purdy Creek in the Key Peninsula will cross paths this summer. While one project is finishing up, the other is getting started.

This work opens up access to important spawning and rearing habitat to more salmon and steelhead at all life stages. This includes areas that have not been accessed in years. Our efforts to correct fish passage barriers in places like Little Minter Creek and Purdy Creek are making an important contribution to salmon and steelhead recovery in Washington state.

Both projects require some temporary detours, closures and traffic shifts that Pierce and Kitsap County travelers will want to plan for. Here are the details:

SR 302 Little Minter Creek

An old box culvert in Little Minter Creek

Work to finish correcting barriers to fish under State Route 302 in Little Minter Creek will begin in late-July. This project, which also corrected outdated culverts at nearby Minter Creek, began in Spring 2019. Starting the week of July 25, drivers will see one-lane alternating traffic on SR 302 near 118th Avenue Northwest and 123rd Avenue Northwest from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday. Crews are also allowed to work overnight from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Long-term closure of SR 302

A longer around-the-clock closure of a portion of SR 302 is scheduled early to mid-August. This will allow crews to install two new culverts in Little Minter Creek under SR 302 between 123rd Avenue Northwest and 118th Avenue Northwest. Passenger vehicles will follow a local signed detour. Oversized trucks and semi-trucks will follow a detour using SR 16 and SR 3 through Belfair. We will announce the closure dates on the project website once the contractor schedule is finalized.

On the left is the detour passenger vehicles will take during the SR 302 closure,
and on the right is the detour for freight traffic

Once the longer closure is over, alternating one-way traffic will resume until the project is finished. Work to restore Little Minter Creek is expected to finish in early fall.

SR 16/SR 302 Spur at Purdy Creek

Purdy Creek under the SR 302 Spur

Earlier this year, Kraemer North America was awarded the contract to remove old culverts that are barriers to fish in Purdy Creek. The work will take place under two busy state highways – SR 302 Spur and 16. The contractor will replace the culverts with new bridges. Doing this work will require a long-term detour set up for SR 302 Spur, also known as Purdy Drive, and some shifted lanes on both directions of SR 16.

On Monday, Aug. 1, paving will begin on Purdy Lane Northwest from 144th Street Northwest to the SR 302 Spur. Purdy Lane Northwest will be used as the detour for an entire year while crews remove the old culvert under SR 302 Spur. The old culvert will be replaced with a 77-foot-long bridge.

The detour on Purdy Lane Northwest will be in place from early September 2022 until August 2023. No parking will be allowed along the detour during this time. To help keep traffic moving, the detour route will have a temporary signal in place at the intersection of 144th Street Northwest and Purdy Lane Northwest.

The detour route for the work near SR 302 Purdy Creek

Improvements to Purdy Creek are also happening under both directions of SR 16. Only one direction at a time will be constructed, with the first being westbound starting in late September and continuing until summer 2023. Construction on the eastbound direction of SR 16 will take place from summer 2023 to summer 2024. During this time, SR 16 travelers will see a reduced speed limit and shifted lanes through the work zone.

Why do these projects take so long?

Improving stream habitat for fish takes time, and each project is unique. We work closely with the Department of Fish and Wildlife on fish passage projects. During construction, they guide us on when we can allow crews to be in the water to remove the old stuff and put the new stuff in without stressing out the fish. These timeframes are called “fish windows” or “in-water work”. These “fish windows” set the timeframe on when everything else can be done and they are there to protect the fish. If we miss those windows because of weather or supply chain issues, it can easily set a project schedule back an entire year. This is what happened on Little Minter Creek. We ran into supply chain issues that pushed us beyond our “fish window” and the work was pushed into this summer. We will do our best to manage this schedule and provide updates along the way if anything changes.

Watch this video to learn more about the elements of structure design
and why those may make a project timeline shorter or longer.

Watch this video to see an up-close look at the previous construction to remove the fish barrier at Minter Creek.
The corrections on Little Minter Creek will improve access for even more fish habitat in the watershed.