Bainbridge council OKs last-minute deal with state for Rockaway Beach seawall

The Bainbridge Island City Council approved a last-minute agreement with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife at its meeting last week to guarantee that plans for a new seawall at Rockaway Beach will protect the shoreline environment.

The council voted unanimously to the mitigation agreement with the state agency, which calls for repeated soil depositing, eelgrass surveys and permits.

“It’s not typical that we would bring an agreement to your consideration that isn’t complete or isn’t finalized,” said Acting City Manager Morgan Smith. City Manager Doug Schulze was absent from Wednesday’s meeting, as were Council members Bob Scales and Kirsten Hytopoulos.

“As of this afternoon, Fish & Wildlife is continuing to suggest some modifications” to the project, Smith continued, and she added that time was of the essence to approve the agreement.

“It really is a matter of day to day to day,” she told the council.

City staff estimated the agreement will cost roughly $350,000 over 25 years.

In it, the city agrees to annual deposits of at least 90 cubic yards of “beach material” to protect the surf smelt and eelgrass habitats.

Health surveys of nearby eelgrass beds are also required periodically to determine the impacts of stabilizing the cliff.

Since the city is planning to complete the project before the end of the year, city staff said it was vital for the council to approve the agreement that night.

“These changes are really last-minute here,” Interim City Attorney Jim Haney told the council, “and the only reason that I think the staff is bringing you what is not a complete contract is at this point the assumption is that if we wait much longer we will miss this year.”

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