MEADOWDALE — With a boost of federal money, a once-in-a-generation project is close to breaking ground, according to Snohomish County Parks.
With about half the funds for construction secured, the county hopes to start work on a $16 million estuary restoration project along the shore of Meadowdale Beach Park.
“We are confident that we can start next year, it might be 2021,” said Shannon Hays, spokesperson for the county parks department.
The project got an infusion of federal dollars earlier this month, when a $3.5 million grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The federal grant money added to roughly $1.5 million the project had already attracted from various fish and estuary recovery funds, plus another $2.3 million from the county budget. That still leaves the county searching for more than $8 million to fully fund the work.
The federal money has a huge impact on the overall project and could attract additional grants from other agencies, Hays said.
There are multiple ways to raise the rest of the funds including applying for additional grants, searching for private-sector investment, tapping into the real estate excise tax or potentially asking the County Council to approve bonds, Hays said.
The work aims to create a more free-flowing estuary by replacing the existing railroad bridge at the county park just north of Edmonds.
Lund’s Gulch Creek, a salmon-bearing stream which runs through Meadowdale Park, is constricted by the current 6-foot wide opening under the rail embankment near the point it enters the Puget Sound.
The plan is to enlarge the culvert by building a five-span, two-track railroad bridge.
This will improve critical fish habitat for salmon, while ensuring year-round access for beachgoers and making the path compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the county. The current opening is often closed off during the rainy season.
Additional habitat and stream enhancement is planned upstream of the rail crossing. A portion of the park’s lawn will be removed and turned back into a marsh. A second footbridge will be built that will provide a platform to view migrating fish.
To bring the estuary back to its pre-railroad condition, crews will be hauling out 17,000 cubic yards of fill.
The immediate area will be closed during construction, but the hiking trails would remain open.
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, pushed for the $3.5 million of federal funding.
“This federal investment will increase the community’s access to a beautiful part of Puget Sound, restore salmon habitat and improve fish passage, and keep trains moving along this important freight corridor,” Cantwell said in a press release.
The tracks see high volumes of traffic. Each day 40 freight and 21 passenger trains pass through the park, according to the county.
This is a fairly unique project for BNSF, which owns the tracks, said spokesperson Courtney Wallace.
“The positive impact to the environment is critical and it will also help to reduce trespassing on private railroad property,” she said.
The county bought the land for Meadowdale Beach Park in 1971 and opened it as a public park in 1988.