As inflation tightens pockets, major construction projects are also feeling the effects. The combination of overall rising prices and increases in the cost of construction inputs, such as lumber, has caused many projects to spill over their anticipated costs.
Thanks to the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments, however, the city of Ocean Shores will have plenty of wiggle room in its upcoming construction of a paved recreational path along the high dunes.
“One of the things, construction, has gotten higher and we knew that we didn’t have the money,” said Ocean Shores Mayor Jon Martin at the Monday, June 13, regular meeting of the Ocean Shores City Council.
According to city grant coordinator Sarah Bisson, the city’s total funding allocated from the Council of Governments recently rose to $884,039 — up from the $277,217 the city had already been awarded.
The drastic increase in funding isn’t solely attributable to a rise in construction costs. A more thorough tour of the nearby wetland areas revealed the need for a revised construction plan in order to minimize impact on the protected ecosystem.
“We had a feasibility study that was conducted in 2014, it was the FireWise feasibility study, that drew the high dunes trail within the secondary dunes system, and it serves dual purpose — it serves as a potential firebreak and a recreational trail. The preliminary design kind of drove what we anticipated the costs to be,” Bisson said.
“We went through the wetland mitigation process, which resulted in additional boardwalks and meandering through the dunes to make sure we’re protecting those habitats and protecting the wetlands.”
In light of Department of Ecology regulations, Ocean Shores City Engineer Robert Lund worked with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to create a more reasonable figure for the project. The result was more than $600,000 in additional funds provided to the city.
“WSDOT, in collaboration with the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments and the Department of Commerce, has a vested interest in this project and is looking forward to the success of the trail’s development,” said City Administrator Scott Andersen at Monday’s meeting.
While the additional funding has helped put wind in the city’s sails, it also presents a timing issue for construction.
The funds are required to be obligated by Sept. 1, but to begin construction the city must obtain an easement for the final 600 to 700 feet of the trail.
“We’re in a Catch-22 because we got the extra money, but we still need to get the right-of-way,” Martin said.
According to Bisson, initial title searches, which were required by WSDOT, did not reveal any issues with ownership of the proposed trail. The city was under the impression it owned the entirety of the high dunes area from Damon Road to West Chance a la Mer.
A more extensive title search recently revealed that the final section of the proposed trail is owned by a local Best Western hotel that owns property out to the tidal surge. The city must now obtain an easement in order to complete the trail in its entirety.
“The city is currently working on a right-of-way easement to complete the final 600-700 feet at the north end of the trail to meet Damon Road and the Damon Road Approach. Once the city has obtained that final right-of-way, we are ready to move forward with construction and utilize the grant funds intended for this purpose,” Andersen said.
The easement snag will likely set the project back several months, as construction was initially anticipated to begin this month.
Bisson expects bids for construction to go out in September or early October, with the hopes of completing construction this year. While the project may be delayed, construction is expected to be a quick process and the city has already utilized its first round of funds for preliminary design tasks.
The trail was a passion project of the late Mayor Crystal Dingler, who died in November 2021. The city has appropriated $264,000 for the trail in the biennium budget, with the potential of additional funds requested in the future for accessories, such as informational signage.
“I definitely look at this as a legacy project for Mayor Dingler and everyone that has participated in its development,” said Bisson. “I’m a local here, and I’m proud I was able to obtain funding and honor the vision that Mayor Dingler had.”