Meadowdale Beach and Estuary Restoration Project
Snohomish County Parks, Recreation and Tourism, with support from Snohomish County Surface Water Management and the Snohomish County MRC, is undertaking a project in 2021 to improve public safety, provide consistent, ADA-accessible beach access, address flooding, sediment delivery, and impairment to critical habitat for ESA-listed Chinook salmon (threatened) and other fish by replacing an undersized culvert and beach access at Meadowdale Beach Park.
Meadowdale Beach Park is a 108-acre park along the Puget Sound. The park features over 500 feet of shoreline, and one mile of riparian habitat along Lund’s Gulch Creek, which drains into Puget Sound. Lund’s Gulch Creek is channeled through a box culvert under the railroad which runs along the park’s shoreline, which is also used by park patrons to access the beach. The narrow configuration of the 6-foot box culvert can restrict the stream’s flows, which often floods the park’s lawn and deposits large volumes of sediment in and upstream of the culvert.
Sediment accumulation creates a number of problems at the park, restricting both fish and human passage through the culvert and requiring frequent maintenance. Salmon have been known to spawn in Lund’s Gulch Creek, while juvenile salmon use the creek and pocket estuary for rearing and refuge.
To address fish passage, sedimentation flow, and beach access issues associated with the undersized culvert, the Snohomish County MRC partnered with Snohomish County Surface Water Management and Parks and Recreation to evaluate the feasibility of design alternatives to the culvert at Meadowdale Beach Park.
The feasibility study aimed to address the public access, fish barrier, and maintenance issues resulting from the sediment accumulation, while restoration components of the project will create additional fish and wildlife habitat and act as a buffer for hydrological processes.
The Meadowdale Beach and Estuary Restoration Project entails replacing 128 linear feet of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s rock armored railroad embankment, which supports two main tracks, and the associated 6-foot wide box culvert, with a five-span railroad bridge and new railroad fencing to address public safety and restore shoreline processes associated with Puget Sound.
The existing 6-foot culvert through the embankment does not provide safe access to the saltwater beach access portion of Meadowdale County Park, and constrains natural stream and shoreline processes which cause flooding and exacerbate access issues through the culvert. The lack of consistent, safe access to the beach leads park patrons to either wade through critical stream habitat during high flow flood waters or to illegally trespass over the railroad tracks.
The proposed project, set to go to construction in 2021, will remove the hard armored railroad embankment, two main tracks, and undersized culvert and replace them with a five-span railroad bridge improves public safety, provides consistent, ADA-accessible beach access, addresses flooding, sediment delivery, and impairment to critical habitat for ESA-listed Chinook salmon (threatened) and other fish by providing a widened opening beneath the tracks (6’ to 102’). This improvement nearly replicates shoreline conditions at this location which existed pre-railroad (1872) allowing essential shoreline processes to function naturally.
Detailed information about the project’s status and timeline can be found on the County’s Meadowdale Beach and Estuary Restoration project page.
Because of the significant investment needed to initiate the Meadowdale Beach and Estuary Restoration Project, Snohomish County contracted with Earth Economics to perform a holistic benefit-cost analysis (BCA) of the project. The BCA revealed that the project would unlock $249 million worth of public benefits, including recreational, environmental, educational, and economic benefits. These benefits were found to far outweigh the anticipated project costs. In fact, the BCA found that for every dollar invested in the Meadowdale Beach and Estuary Restoration Project, the County can expect $4.35 worth of public benefits in return.
More information can be found in the full report: The Natural Value of Meadowdale Beach Park: A Benefit Cost Analysis of the Meadowdale Beach Park and Estuary Restoration Project.
- Railroad bridge would help fish habitat – but at a high cost (Everett Herald)
- Infusion of federal money propels Meadowdale Beach project (Everett Herald)