Glendale creek bed almost ready for water
June 25, 2008 · Updated 12:31 PM
"A construction worker with Callen Construction guides a scoop shovel operator as he moves a boulder into position in the new bed of Glendale Creek Thursday.Matt Johnson / staff photoIsland County is getting the easy work in the Glendale Creek canyon out of the way first. Politically easy, that is.By late this week, workers with Callen Construction will be ready to open the floodgates -- literally -- and send the waters of Glendale Creek rushing down a re-engineered and rebuilt culvert and stream bed and into Puget Sound. The project is one that has received support from local fishermen and Glendale residents. But on Monday morning, those same people traveled to Coupeville to protest the next phase of the project, the proposed reconstruction of the 1,800 feet of Glendale Road that connects the little community to the rest of Clinton. For almost two months, the Callen Construction has been working on an Island County plan to restore the creek bed and rebuild driveway accesses to several Glendale homes. Those accesses were destroyed in January 1997, when floodwaters from melting snow tore a the culvert that channeled the stream out of the ground, destroying portions of Glendale Road.But at the same time, the flood waters reopened a salmon habitat that had seen nary a spawning salmon in decades. Because of those fish, the reconstruction of the creek bed and and a small portion of Glendale Road have received the blessings of the few dozen people who live in the Glendale area. Don Miller, spokesman for Friends of Glendale Creek, said Thursday that the work in the creek bed is going well.We're supportive of that work, Miller said. We're glad to see that happening.What the Friends are not supportive of is the county's plan to rebuild Glendale Road where partially collapsed in the Glendale Canyon. They argue that the work will endanger the survival of Glendale Creek and its salmon. On the other side, Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton has argued for the past three years that the road needs to be reopened to provide reliable access and egress from Glendale. The only other road to the community, Humphrey Road, has a history of sliding. If that happens again without an open Glendale Road, Glendale could be isolated from the remainder of the island. Shelton also emphasizes that the rebuilt road will be built with salmon protection in mind.Citizens plead for Glendale changesGlendale Creek Canyon residents told the Island County commissioners Monday that a proposed road reconstruction project will lead to a tragic cycle of more traffic, more erosion, more slides, more environmental damage and back to more reconstruction.Once you start maintaining a road up Glendale Canyon you're going to have to keep maintaining the road, said Lorinda Kay, a member of a community group called Friends of Glendale Creek. Our priority is protecting the stream, not protecting the road.Kay was joined by about 40 others who had gathered in the commissioners hearing room in Coupeville to lobby for an alternative to repairing Glendale Road. The road suffered a devastating slide during the very wet winter of 1996 which left only slide-prone Humphrey Road for community access. The 1996 slide also scoured out a new path for Glendale Creek, destroyed a 50-year-old, 400-foot, fish-inhibiting culvert and reopened the stream to migrating salmon. Fearing that the community could be cut off completely if a slide struck Humphrey Road, county officials came up with a plan that they said would fix Glendale Road without harming the environment. The plan includes rebuilding about 600 feet of the lower stream to encourage salmon and reconstructing about 1,800 feet of the two-lane Glendale Road using about 150 feet of rock wall to help stabilize the slope. Though many of the friends spoke highly of the lower stream work now being done, they strongly objected to the replacement of the upper part of the road. Group member Don Miller said the stabilization wall could be as high as 16 feet in sections. He told the commissioners that the road project would create a long gutter down Glendale Canyon - a condition that he said would cause more erosion and slide problems in the future.We should treat this like a watershed as opposed to just another road project, he said.Several group members said they didn't much care for the access Glendale Road once provided to more cars, delivery vehicles and last-minute commuters speeding through on their way to the Clinton ferry. But they insisted that theirs was a plea to save an environmentally fragile area and not a self-centered attempt to preserve peace in their now-quieter community.There is a higher use for this creek and it's not a road, said Tom Fisher, who lives about a mile away from the canyon. Is this a watershed or a peopleshed?Glendale Road resident Mindy Thompson encouraged the commissioners not to focus strictly on salmon habitat. She said the current environment also provides a home for deer, fox, beaver, trout, eagles, salamanders, frogs and other wildlife.There are very few places that have this much diversity, she said.Most of the speakers said they favored a one-lane emergency road that could primarily be used as a pedestrian path. In a written statement on behalf of the Citizens Growth Management Coalition, South Whidbey resident Dean Enell said the Glendale Creek area was an opportunity for the county to do more by doing less.We can accomplish this not by spending more money, but by spending less and allowing nature to take its course, he said.Kay told the commissioners that more than 99 percent of Glendale residents support the one-lane road concept. She said more people had wanted to attend Monday morning's meeting but could not because of work. She asked the commissioners to hold an evening meeting sometime within the next month so that more people could be heard.The commissioners said they would try to set up such a meeting. They offered no comment and made no decisions regarding the proposed road project. "