The Harper Estuary is a small embayment located in southern Kitsap County with a rich local history tied to the native peoples and modern development in the area. Pocket estuaries and salt marsh, like Harper Estuary, are important to the Puget Sound nearshore ecosystem and are a highly productive habitats for support of fish and wildlife. Shallow protected waters fringed by salt marsh plants provide an abundant food source for fish and wildlife, including juvenile salmonid and waterfowl, and a refuge from predation. These habitats are important to the health of Puget Sound and its natural resources. The natural values of the estuary, along with Harper Park and Harper Pier, are also a focal point for local community recreation and aesthetics.
Harper Estuary has been impacted by fill associated with former development activities. A brick mining and manufacturing facility was built in the southwest portion of the estuary in the early 1900s, which was then a lobe of the estuary (approximately the location of the Harper Park ball field today). When the factory was abandoned in the 1940’s, the buildings were demolished, with much of the material pushed into the estuary, accompanying "clinker” bricks and spillage from barge loading. Bricks associated with the history of Harper Estuary remain visible today.
The estuary’s natural functions have also been impacted by road fill, both current and historic, along with other fill material for the boat landing and development. The estuary is bisected by SE Olympiad Drive Road, with tidal influence also restricted by two undersized culverts (Olympiad Drive and Southworth Drive). Prior to Olympiad Drive, fill and piling associated with a drawbridge road approach and shoreline road also filled portions of Harper Estuary.
Restoration of the natural values of Harper Estuary has been a local and regional priority for over a decade. The Harper estuary restoration project was selected by the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) in 2013 for funding through the Natural Resource Damage funds associated with the Cleanup Settlement Account for the ASARCO smelter site in Tacoma. The restoration project was designed to build on former habitat restoration conceptual planning over the past decade (e.g. PSNERP 2011) and incorporate stakeholder and community outreach input for the final project design. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has partnered with Kitsap County since 2013 to:
• Seek input from the local community and stakeholders
• Develop and analyze restoration options with the local community and stakeholders
• Develop a habitat restoration design and complete permitting
• Continue community outreach throughout this process
• Implement the final design for the habitat restoration project
For a full project description, click here.
The Harper Estuary Restoration project is planned in two phases:
Design Lead for Phase 1 - Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Project Manager, Doris Small, 360.902.2258
Design Lead for Phase 2 - Kitsap County Department of Public works, Project Manager, Gunnar Fridriksson, 360.337.5777
Phase 1 Components:
1) Estuary restoration consisting primarily of removal of historic fill and reconnection of tidelands, which also includes the cleanup of contaminated soil that has been detected in isolated areas south of
SE Olympiad Drive.
2) Replacement of a 24-inch culvert on Harper Creek which runs under Southworth Drive with a 16'x11' three-sided culvert.
3) Replacement of the existing hand launch facility and beach access at the NE corner of Olympiad and Southworth Drive
Phase 2 Components:
4) Removing the existing 36-inch culvert and associated road fill that exists where Olympiad Drive crosses Harper Estuary and replacing it with a 120 foot bridge
5) ADA compliant beach access
- Southworth Drive culvert replacement is completed
- Estuary restoration began in November and is expected to be complete by February 2017
- Bridge design, including final plans and specifications, is being completed by Otak Inc. The bridge component of the project is expected to go to bid in early 2018.
Funding: The project is currently funded by Asarco Mitigation Funds at $4.1 million. Total estimated cost for the 5 components is approximately $7 million.