The state-owned, 800-acre site is expected to reopen by March 1, following completion of two projects valued at a combined $700,000.
The work slated in the months ahead is designed to restore Woodard and Chapman bays to a more natural condition, as well as lead the way to improved public access to the marine shorelines there, state Department of Natural Resources project manager Michele Zukerberg said.
The natural resource conservation area about 8 miles north of Olympia was purchased by DNR from Weyerhaeuser, which used to operate a log-rafting and transport hub there for its timber-harvest operations in Thurston and Lewis counties. The log dump closed in 1984. In 1987, the Legislature designated the property as a wildlife sanctuary.
This fall’s work is the latest in a serious of projects to reduce the human footprint on the property, which included railroad trestles and piers across the bays, a home, outbuildings, bulkheads and creosote pilings. In this phase, DNR will:
• Remove about 22,000 cubic yards of earthen fill from Woodard Bay from a site where a trestle was removed in 2010. The work should improve water circulation in the bay.
• Pull a variety of derelict materials from the Chapman Bay shoreline, including a concrete abutment, frayed steel cables and angular rocks, all of which threaten the public’s safety.
• Remove about 500 tons of creosote-soaked material from the Chapman Bay pier, including 200 pilings, 9,000 square feet of the pier’s north side and two trestles that extend from the pier’s west side.
The two trestles burned in an arson 10 years ago and continue to fuel public and environmental safety concerns.
The Chapman Bay portion of the project will take place from the water using a barge. Left in place will be 50 percent of the pier, which features summer roosting habitat for the largest known maternity colony of bats in the state.
The bat colony has been studied extensively the past 10 years by Olympia-based bat researcher Greg Falxa, who discovered that the bats fly to Capitol Lake to feed on insects in the summer while rearing their young. The population of roosting adult bats ranges from 2,000 to 3000 per year.
“I don’t see a particular problem for bats with this phase of pier removal,” Falxa said.
DNR partnered with Falxa to design and build alternative bat-roosting habitat at the Woodard Bay site this summer. DNR also upgraded the roosting structures under the pier.
Zukerberg said no additional Chapman Bay pier removal is planned unless the bats stop using the pier to bear and rear their young.
Other creatures that use the Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area include heron, bald eagles, waterfowl, river otters, harbor seals and salmon. It’s also the site of a native Olympia oyster-restoration project involving DNR and The Nature Conservancy.