Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Taking care of the environment vital to any highway work

By Doug Adamson

Trees are vital to our state. We aren’t called the Evergreen State for nothing, after all. Not only are they lovely to look at, but they’re an incredibly important part of our ecosystem. But there are times when we do need to make changes to work on our state infrastructure.

So how do we balance the importance of trees with the need to get this work done?

Great question.

Protecting the ecosystem

We start projects with an eye to help protect the entire ecosystem, including the surrounding trees. We look over every tree, and we keep every one we can. Before construction, a team identifies and marks each tree. This ensures that only trees that pose an obstruction will be removed.

For those that have to be removed, we create an aggressive tree replacement program. We plant more than twice the number of trees than are removed. We replace any removed trees with Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, and Cascara Buckthorns. They’re much more than aesthetic. They enhance air and water quality.

A look at plantings during a fish passage project in May 2020 and the same site with plants flourishing in June 2022

An example

Let’s take a look at our upcoming fish culvert project to improve Murden Creek under State Route 305 on Bainbridge Island. Our goal is to restore the creek to a more natural state, remove barriers for fish to help salmon recovery and enhance the local ecosystem.

The fish barrier under Murden Creek will be replaced and the area replanted.

But first, the painful part of clearing the way for this work, including removing trees, needs to happen. Besides replacing those that go away, we also will plant 3,000 shrubs. These include Western Sword Fern, Salmonberry, and Evergreen Huckleberry and other native plants.

So the short-term work will lead to long-term gain for future generations.

The plan for replanting around the Murden Creek fish passage project

The project kicks off on Monday, Aug. 8 with occasional night one-way alternating traffic and a reduced speed limit so please be aware, stay safe around road crews and know that when it’s done, we’ll have a wonderful new culvert surrounded by thriving foliage to enjoy. Work will be complete fall 2023.