‘A wonderfully choreographed production’

  • Written by Deborah Stone

Photo by Wes Yasny. Earthquake damage left the 50,000-pound bridge unsupported and listing 15 degrees downstream.
Good things come to those who patiently persevere. The students, teachers and families of the Attic Learning Community are testament to this adage.

They spent the past three years working on a project to remove a failing cement bridge on Little Bear Creek.

Last August, they were successful in their endeavors, with the help and support of a number of key agencies, organizations and businesses, including the City of Woodinville, Washington State Fish and Wildlife officials, King County representatives, the Department of Ecology, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation and Mowatt Construction.

The Attic, a local home school association, is located on 5.2 acres along Little Bear Creek, just north of Woodinville High School.

With the purchase of the property five years ago, the organization inherited a failing single lane cement bridge that was once used to serve as the sole access to the west side of Little Bear Creek, prior to the construction of Highway 522.

Once the highway was built and the 195th Street exit created, the existing bridge was no longer needed or used to access the area.

It remained there, firmly entrenched, until the Nisqually earthquake rattled Western Washington in 2001.

The earthquake separated the bridge from the wing walls that once anchored the structure safely into the stream banks.

This damage left the 50,000-pound bridge unsupported and listing 15 degrees downstream.

"That basically started everything," explains Wes Yasny, Attic parent and manager of the bridge removal project. "Then, the region was flooded several times over the years, which caused the bridge to tilt more and move further downstream. As landowners, we began noticing serious erosion problems due to the physical make-up of the soils, as well as to the stream bed and adjacent stream banks. All of this was creating a huge problem, as it presented a significant risk to prime salmon spawning habitat and other local aquatic species. We knew that if the bridge was not removed, serious consequences would occur to the future health of this important Type 2 stream."

The whole school became involved, as studying about environmental issues is an integral part of the curriculum. The project became a valuable learning opportunity for the students.

Site visits were arranged by local, county, state and federal agencies and information was gathered to determine the best way to remove the bridge. The kids took measurements, made maps, learned about erosion problems and studied the evolution of salmon.

The Attic applied for and received a $40,000 grant from a joint funding source program under the auspices of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

According to Yasny, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded the school $24,800 and the local King County Community Salmon Fun II Program gave $15,200.

The Attic covered $17,300 of matching contributions and in-kind services.

"Without this financial support, we would have found it extremely hard to successfully remove the bridge," says Yasny.

Though the money lifted a large financial burden from the school, challenges still remained. The process involved was lengthy and immersed in red tape. Learning the regulations and going through the procedures was an enormous endeavor, which took much time.

"We wanted to do everything right," says Yasny. "That was important to us."

With the research and field studies completed, the Attic worked with the City of Woodinville on the necessary Environmental Information Checklist. And the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Federal Corps of Engineers, the major lead agency for federal regulatory protection of federal recognized waters, secured approval of several necessary permits, which cleared the way to initiate the proper steps in removing the manmade structure from the salmon spawning habitat.

"The true heroes of this project, besides the students and families of the Attic, are the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation and Mowatt Construction," comments Yasny. "Adopt-A-Stream provided the knowledge and experience to work with the aquatic habitat. They isolated the work area with fish nets and safely removed fish and aquatic species from the location. Mowatt, which has an office in Woodinville, helped us solve the problem in removing the bridge, while following the approved guidelines set by the various regulatory agencies. Butch Ridlon and his crew came out and in just four days, safely and successfully removed the bridge, while protecting the habitat, streambeds and stream banks."

Yasny continues to explain that log toes and a wooden log crib, provided by Bobby Wolford and his team, were installed to reinforce stream banks from future flood water events. The area was then watered, seeded with autumn rye grass and covered with soil erosion protection fabric and a thick layer of bedstraw to mitigate any potential erosion problems.

Attic students and families have established a 75-foot native plant species buffer along the creek at the site. They have removed non native plants and replaced them with native species to promote a healthy stream environment.

"We’ve put in 450-500 trees, bushes and a variety of other plants," adds Yasny. "And everything’s going well. Our responsibility now is to maintain the site and we have to send in yearly reports to the City of Woodinville to show how successful the program is, in regards to the survival rate of the plants."

Yasny is effusive in his appreciation for all the professionals who played a role in helping the Attic achieve its goals.

He says, "The beauty of this is that it was a true collaborative effort. It was a wonderfully choreographed production. I think the main message here is that the small landowner has the capability of taking on a project of this magnitude without incurring enormous out-of-pocket costs because there are programs and supportive agencies out there that are willing to help."



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