By Anthony Macuk, The Columbian (view original story)
Work is well underway on the Steigerwald Reconnection Project, and motorists on state Highway 14 in Washougal can expect to encounter occasional delays as they pass through the project’s highway construction area.
The project aims to restore 965 acres of floodplain habitat in the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge by removing a 2.2-mile section of the existing levee that cuts the area off from the Columbia River, and restoring the natural flow path of Gibbons Creek.
The existing Gibbons Creek diversion path and fish ladder will be removed.
The levee system will be reconfigured to add two new levees to the east and west, providing greater flood protection for the Steigerwald Commerce Center and other nearby property. The project will also raise a section of Highway 14, which runs along the north side of the refuge area, to bring it above the 500-year flood level.
The refuge will receive enhanced recreational amenities including new trails, bridges and viewpoints and a new parking lot and bathrooms.
Construction began in June, and work on the highway portion is scheduled to wrap up in September, with occasional delays and lane closures in the interim. The refuge is closed through October and will close again from April 2021 through April 2022, when the overall project is scheduled to be completed.
The project is a joint effort from several groups including the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Port of Camas-Washougal and the Washington State Department of Transportation.