Bellingham’s Squalicum Creek Re-Route Project was recently named a 2016 Public Works Project of the Year by the American Public Works Association (APWA). The project is being honored with APWA’s Project of the Year award in the Environment category at a cost less than $5 million. This award honors agencies that include treatment and recycling facilities, landfill reclamation projects, and sewer projects.

For 2016, the team of winners includes City of Bellingham, WA as the managing agency; Trimaxx Construction Inc., as the primary contractor; and Interfluve, Inc. as the primary consultant, who will all be presented with the award during APWA’s 2016 PWX Conference Awards Ceremony in Minneapolis, MN during August 28-31, 2016.

The APWA Public Works Projects of the Year awards are presented annually to promote excellence in the management and administration of public works projects, recognizing the alliance between the managing agency, contractor, consultant and their cooperative achievements. This year, APWA selected projects in five categories in the Small Cities/Rural Communities area: Disaster/Emergency, Environment, Historical Restoration, Structures, and Transportation.

The Squalicum Creek Re-route project includes high-priority restoration that directly improves temperature, dissolved oxygen, sediment transport, salmon habitat, and public health in Squalicum Creek by working collaboratively to prevent water pollution at its source. The project addresses the highest thermal loading issues in Squalicum Creek and exceeds the recommended implementation plan in the creek’s Temperature TMDL, as well as supporting implementation of Channel Migration Zone regulatory protection.

The re-route project is the most cost-effective way to address the highest thermal loading issues. The project also dramatically decreased stream width from an average width of 375 feet through Sunset Pond to 20 feet across in the new channel. The decreased residence time of the water in the ponds also decreases thermal loading, which, in turn, improves dissolved oxygen. Creation and enhancement of riverine wetlands adjacent to the channel provide filtering. The project will establish mature vegetation over time and the warm and low-oxygen-content waters of Bug Lake and Sunset Pond are effectively circumvented.

Re-routing the water flow simultaneously improves Endangered Species Act fish habitat because it bypasses and decommissions deleterious areas such as passage barriers, degraded channels, and toxic point sources. The project opens over 22 miles of upstream spawning and rearing habitat by circumventing two fish passage barriers.

The Reroute project is a prime example of sustainable restoration design. The new creek winds through a wet forest and is designed to dynamically interact with its floodplain and evolve as unconstrained streams always do. The placement of large woody debris, scour pools and remnant channels are designed to mimic a stream that is cutting into the bank. Hydraulic capacity for the new channel is the 1.5-year storm event and assumes that the creek will regularly overtop its banks and will maintain the connectivity with the surrounding wetlands and wet forest.

All restoration plantings of disturbed areas are trees and shrubs that are native to this region. When mature, they will provide shade to the stream, habitat, and bank stabilization. When they die they will naturally replenish the large woody debris within the creek while still providing habitat.

For more information on the APWA 2016 Projects of the Year, please contact APWA Media Relations and Communications Manager, Laura Bynum,, or call 202.218.6736.

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