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Proctor Landing to close, neighbors upset

Construction portables and a floating barge have been set up at Proctor Landing in preparation for the lakeline sewer project, beginning this month. The Island beach will be closed, as of this week, until fall 2010. - Elizabeth Celms/Mercer Island Reporter
Construction portables and a floating barge have been set up at Proctor Landing in preparation for the lakeline sewer project, beginning this month. The Island beach will be closed, as of this week, until fall 2010.
— image credit: Elizabeth Celms/Mercer Island Reporter

A handful of Island residents are shocked and upset that the city has blocked off Proctor Landing as the staging site for the 2009-2010 sewer lakeline project. The popular East Seattle neighborhood beach will be used as the main base for the two-year effort, which is the largest capital construction project in the city’s history.

Last week, the beach was partitioned off with a wood and metal gate while Manson Construction, the contracting firm hired to complete the work, erected several portables on the lawn and a floating barge off the shore. This commotion attracted Proctor Landing neighbors and Islanders who frequent the beach — most of whom were unaware that the landing would be closed for two years starting this month.

Neighborhood resident Ka Anderson said that she learned of the construction when a friend forwarded her the city’s “MI Weekly” publication, dated March 25. Anderson was dismayed that, living a few houses away from the landing, she had not been informed that the small park would be closed for two years.

“The real problem here is a lack of communication from the city,” she said. “According to the ‘MI Weekly,’ it says that total access [to Proctor Landing] will be closed through December 2010. I don’t know how the city has notified people of this, but it’s after the fact. They started putting up the gate on [March 23].”

Anderson feels that the city should have made more effort to publicize the fact that Proctor Landing would be closed for two years.

“We knew that the project would be replacing the sewer line starting at Proctor, but nobody that I know of knew that these trailers would be here so soon, or for two consecutive summers,” she said.

Anne Tonella-Howe, sewer lakeline project manager, said that East Seattle neighbors were notified that Proctor Landing had been chosen as the staging site.

“We did notify the waterfront residents along the project limits — from Proctor Landing north to the Roanoke. A letter was sent out a couple of weeks ago,” she said, adding that the letter also mentioned that the park under the 1-90 bridge would be closed to accommodate a pump station.

Admitting that only waterfront residents were sent individual letters — since they were the ones affected by the project — Tonella-Howe said that the city has broadly publicized news about the lakeline project since its inception.

Joy Johnston, communications coordinator for the city, backs this statement.

“We’ve discussed this for years now; it’s all been pretty public,” she said.

On March 25, the city announced on its Web site that a public open house on the lakeline project would be held on March 31. The sewer lakeline “update” — part of the online “MI Weekly” — mentions that Manson Construction would be “using S.E. 32nd/Proctor Landing for construction staging,” and that the “park site will be closed to public use for the duration of the construction, which is anticipated to be through December 2010.”

According to Tonella-Howe, this announcement was the first mentioning of Proctor Landing’s closure for Islanders not residing within lakeline project boundaries.

The update also explained that “in order to avoid disrupting the spawning cycles of lake spawning and migrating salmon, in-water construction can occur only during approved work windows, which are from early July through mid-October in most areas.”

Tonella-Howe said that she understands residents’ disappointment over the closure of Proctor Landing, yet the beach is the only viable site to house Manson Construction.

“We do recognize that it’s an inconvenience to the community, but there’s no other location where the contractors could moor a small boat for transportation between land and the barges,” she said. “We really want to minimize the impact on the community.”

As an example, Tonella-Howe cited the wood and metal gate erected last week. Conscious that a chain-link fence would create a community eyesore, the city and Manson Construction agreed to construct an aesthetic, residential driveway gate.

“Manson really wants to be able to work and be a good neighbor,” Tonella-Howe explained. “They are trying to do things that won’t be so impactful and, at the same time, get construction underway.”

Anderson agreed on this point, adding that Manson project manager Bob Richardson has been “very helpful” and has even proposed setting up a stand with flyers informing visitors about the park’s closure.

While those who frequent Proctor Landing are still not pleased with the situation, most understand it.

“It’s a necessary sacrifice for the public,” said Islander Deborah Ferse, who visits Proctor Landing as part of her favorite walking route. “I will be upset to see it close — it’s such a tranquil place — but I don’t want the sewer line to be broken.”

The alternative, she added, is worse than going two summers without her favorite landing.

“I remember when [the city of Seattle] closed swimming at all the beaches in the 1950s because of the sewage,” she said. “We can’t have that.”

The city of Mercer Island hosted an open house on the lakeline project yesterday evening, after Reporter deadline, at City Hall. Islanders were invited to hear representatives from the city, Manson Construction Company, Frank Coluccio Construction Company and Stellar J. Corporation discuss the project. A question and answer period followed.

For more information on the sewer lakeline project, visit the city Web site: www.mercergov.org.

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