Lindvig culvert reaches end of the road

POULSBO — At times, the Lindvig Bridge project has seemed more like an old fashioned barn-raising than a modern construction project.

POULSBO — At times, the Lindvig Bridge project has seemed more like an old fashioned barn-raising than a modern construction project.

Last Friday, Doug Palmer of Stan Palmer Construction used a backhoe to clear dirt around a 6.5-foot-wide culvert that until recently was the only connection between Dogfish Creek and the headwaters of Liberty Bay.

Just a few feet away, his son, Andrew, 11, helped Suquamish Tribe Salmon Recovery Coordinator Paul Dorn pick sculpin, silver perch, surf smelt and even a couple juvenile salmonids out of a muddy tidepool.

“We take them over to the bay and every high tide they swim right back,” Dorn explained of his task with a chuckle.

And it’s all in the name of creating Poulsbo’s only bridge.

The project, which began May 14, replaces the culvert with a bridge, which was what was originally located there until the 1960s. The $1.7 million price tag is covered by a $1.4 million Salmon Recovery Funding Board grant and $300,000 in culvert replacement money from the State Department of Transportation and is specifically aimed at improving salmon habitat.

Around July 15, crews added dams to the north and south sides of the span, which allowed workers to excavate around the culvert during low tides. A series of pumps help move the water from one side of the span to the other during the lowest tides.

Last week, crews began removal of the culvert in 20-foot sections. As each section is removed, rip rap (small stones) and larger rocks were laid on the stream bed and walls to create a channel for the water. Senior Field Inspector Mike Lund explained that this addition will mean that once the water is released, it will run over rocks rather than dirt. A dirt stream bed would be more easily eroded.

“It’s pretty neat. I was just down there and you can really begin to see what it’s going to look like when it’s done,” Lund said.

Culvert removal is expected to continue all of this week. All of the work under the bridge is planned to be finalized by early next week.

“Being that they have to work with the tides, they only get a couple of hours a day to work some days,” Lund explained. “But this week we have some pretty good minus tides this week, so they should get a lot more done.”

The second set of girders, which will become the north side of the bridge, will be set Aug. 5.

Dorn has been on site most days doing work ranging from helping to build the dams that were placed last week, to helping release fish from the dammed off portions. The mouth of Dogfish Creek is an important estuary to the Suquamish Tribe and Dorn said he’s been pleased with the innovative approach the contractor has taken to the project.

“The contractor’s doing an excellent job,” Dorn commented. “This works and it may allow us to finish the project even quicker.”

And quicker couldn’t come soon enough as Dorn is eagerly awaiting the arrival of spawning salmon to the estuary. He said the removal of the culvert will create a much more natural “saltwater wedge” in the currents, which is a better mix for marine life. Previously, water in the culvert simply merged between the fresh water creek and the salt water bay.

“You’ll actually be able to see the currents where the salt water and the fresh water pass each other,” Dorn said of the finished product.

The earliest salmon can be seen in the creek is September, but Dorn said they usually start arriving in the estuary in August. Dorn said the new bridge will be a great vantage point to watch the salmon, which will be on site as late as November or December for Chum.

“Now you’ll have an easy way for the public to come down and see what’s going on,” Dorn said. “River otters. Birds. It’s going to be really neat.”