This week the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made progress on two separate action paths for the City of Seattleâ€™s Elliott Bay Seawall project. First, a Feasibility Scoping Meeting, or FSM, was completed on May 7 by the Corpsâ€™ Seattle District Civil Works Branch for the General Investigation study.
Second, the Districtâ€™s Regulatory Branch made a preliminary decision to move forward with an Environmental Assessment on the cityâ€™s effort to self-perform a fast-tracked project.
The FSM was the first high-level agency review since work began on the cost-shared study in 2004. During the FSM, officials from Corpsâ€™ national and regional headquarters conducted a project review with Seattle District and City officials, joined by interested congressional staff representatives.
The FSMâ€™s purpose was to validate the federal interest in moving the study forward by evaluating existing conditions and setting a baseline against which future project alternatives will be considered. The federal interest determination will be made after additional analysis and discussion of three key issues: economic analysis; scheduling; and non-federal cost sharing.
â€śWe are continuing forward, but replacing the Elliott Bay Seawall has some unique circumstances and this is why the FSM determined more coordination is needed,â€ť Seattle District Commander Col. Bruce A. Estok said.
Based on concerns about continued timely federal involvement and funding, the City is pursuing a parallel approach of constructing the Seawallâ€™s first critical phase with local funding. Seattleâ€™s objective is to move the projectâ€™s first phase forward and to seek federal funding retroactively, in conjunction with any future federal construction authorization of the entire Seawall project. City of Seattle officials forged ahead by applying on April 5 for a Department of Army permit to independently undertake project work in Elliott Bay as early as 2013 to remain apace with other transportation and waterfront improvements.
The Corpsâ€™ initial review of this application led to a May 3 determination to move forward with the expectation of preparing an Environmental Assessment for the proposed project. Seattle District will soon initiate the public review process with a widely distributed notification to tribes, agencies, residents and businesses informing them about the project, and offering them the opportunity to comment on it. New information about significant effects could later lead to undertaking an Environmental Impact Statement.
While Seattle’s permit application will potentially allow them to proceed on their construction schedule as part of an overall infrastructure plan, future federal decision points will determine whether federally sponsored construction will occur, and if Seattle could be retroactively credited for non-federal construction costs incurred in advance of the federal study.
Dredging Today Staff, May 14, 2012; Image: seattle.gov