Squalicum Creek Reroute wins national award

Change improved fish habitat, water quality

April 25, 2016 - by Amy Cloud, Communications and Outreach

A project to reroute Squalicum Creek away from Sunset Pond in order to improve water quality and habitat has earned the City of Bellingham the American Public Works Association's (APWA) Public Works Project of the Year Award.

Projects were judged based on: safety precautions to protect lives and property; efforts to minimize public inconvenience; protecting the environment, including special considerations given to particular environmental concerns; accomplishments in conditions over which there is no control; as well as construction management and safety.

Squalicum Creek is habitat for Coho, Chum, Pink, and Chinook and Steelhead (both listed under the Endangered Species Act) and supports other fish, birds and mammals. However, the health of the ecosystem was jeopardized by the Creek's connection to nearby man-made ponds which, being shallow and wide, absorb solar heat increasing the water's temperature to a level too warm for salmon. Work done during the summer of 2015 re-routed nearly a mile of Squalicum Creek around Sunset Pond into a newly created channel and reconnected the stream with its floodplain. This project also eliminated existing fish passage barriers of James Street and I-5, opening up over 22 miles of salmon habitat upstream.

“This project is anticipated to decrease water temperatures, improve dissolved oxygen levels, enhance biotic integrity and benefit salmon habitat in Squalicum Creek by routing water flow away from Sunset Pond,” said Renee LaCroix, Public Works assistant director and project lead.

The design and construction of the re-route project were closely coordinated with other City projects in the area – including the James Street Bridge improvements, Bay to Baker trail and the Orchard Drive extension – in order to minimize impacts to both the wetlands and the community.

The APWA Public Works Project of the Year Award is intended to promote excellence in the management and administration of projects. Bellingham Public Works received the award for the category of environmental projects costing less than $5 million.

“These awards not only highlight the excellence of the work being done by the public works community, but also provide an opportunity to make the citizens of our communities aware of that work,” said Jerry Fay, APWA past president.

LaCroix will accept the City's first national top award at the APWA annual meeting in Minnesota in August. Craig Mueller, PE, was the project engineer. InterFluve provided the design engineering, while Trimaxx Construction completed the work.

The APWA, originally chartered in 1937, has its roots in two professional organizations that date back to 1894. It is an international education and advocacy organization with more than 60 chapters in the United States.                                    

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Media Contact

​Amy Cloud, Communications and Outreach
City of Bellingham Public Works
(360) 778-7912

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