By John White [Letter sent to Burien City Council]
Subject: Urgent Need for Action to Address the Bulkhead failure at Eagle Landing Park
Dear City of Burien Council,
As you may be aware, Eagle Landing Park, a property acquired by the city in 2005 with the help of a grant from the Recreation and Conservation Organization (RCO), serves as a valuable public asset for both residents and tourists. However, since its opening, the park has experienced significant erosion, resulting in the closure of beach access.
The primary cause of this erosion can be traced back to the stormwater runoff from city street drains, which has been directed to an open storm drain at the top of Eagle Landing Park. This massive influx of water, sometimes reaching up to 2,500 gallons per minute, permeated into the soil at the top of the park and then popped out the sides of the slope just above the shoreline which caused extensive damage to the bulkhead supporting the park’s lower staircases.
The bulkhead failure initially occurred in 2013, leading to the closure of the lower staircase. Unfortunately, the lower staircase was secured to the part of the bulkhead that was washed, so the access to the beach could not be restored until the bulkhead was repaired.
Regrettably, when the bulkhead failed in 2013, the city failed to inform the RCO about the closure of beach access or the failed bulkhead, as required Under the Grant obligations rules and responsibilities. The RCO did not learn of the beach access closure until 2017, which is a substantial delay of over four years. Additionally, The city did not inform the RCO of an existing bulkhead failure.
Furthermore, it has come to light that the city provided misleading documentation during the grant application process, claiming that there was no bulkhead on the property. This misrepresentation raises concerns about the city’s compliance with the RCO’s guidelines and the transparency of the information provided.
It is imperative that the damaged bulkhead be repaired promptly to prevent further deterioration of the park’s infrastructure. Failure to repair this bulkhead will lead not only to further deterioration of the Eagle Landing Park slope, but will also expand into damaging neighboring properties and structures.
Unfortunately, the city believed the solution to erosion problems was to spend $734,000 removing the stairs rather than just repair the bulkhead. Tearing out the perfectly good stairs while failing to repair the bulkhead will not solve the problem, and if the bulkhead is not repaired, it will compromise the neighbor’s bulkhead to the north and south. This means spending $734,000 to tear out the stairs will not solve the problem.
The city solved its stormwater drainage system problem by installing a storm drain pipe all the way to the beach. That pipe was installed in 2020, more than three years ago. There is no longer millions and millions of gallons of stormwater being dumped on the top of this park. Since the pipe installation, there has been no geological movement on the park property, there have been no slides, there have been no fallen trees, and it is time to get a geological assessment post-pipe install.
As responsible stewards of our natural resources, it is the city’s duty to comply with Washington state law, which mandates the maintenance of bulkheads when failure poses a threat to structures. Neglecting this responsibility not only undermines the safety and accessibility of the park but also jeopardizes the ecological balance of the area.
We have just been informed (less than one week ago) that demolition of the stairs will start in the first week of December. There is nothing wrong with the stairs, and now that the pipe has been plumbed to the beach, we strongly believe normal creep has returned to the property on Eagle Landing Park. The only problem is that the bottom bulkhead needs to be repaired.
We are asking the City council to please delay the demolition and hire the structural engineer who designed the stairs to do an assessment which will cost just $6,600. Furthermore, we ask that the city allow an independent geotechnical engineer to do an assessment of the stability of the slope, and to report on the condition of the bulkhead that has failed at the bottom of Eagle Landing Park.
Please understand that the failure to repair a bulkhead on this property means that the slope will continue to deteriorate, and we could lose the entire hillside at Eagle Landing Park, so tearing out the stairs is not going to solve that problem.
We do understand that staff has said they have supporting Geotechnical reports stating that the slope is unstable, and that the stairs must be torn out, but nowhere in these reports–which are not actually geotechnical reports but just memos–does it mention the existence of a failed bulkhead. In fact, in one of the reports supplied to the city by Geo Engineers, it states that they were not able to get to the beach because the tide was up. Surely, if we are to hire a consultant to determine the stability of the slope at Eagle Landing Park, they should have the ability to read a tide chart so that they can do a competent inspection. We suspect that they used this excuse to avoid walking the beachfront, because doing so would force them to admit there is a bulkhead that has failed at Eagle Landing Park.
We strongly urge that an independent, geotechnical engineer, not Geo Engineers, provide the city a second opinion, which includes an inspection of the bulkhead and its condition.
In summary, we ask for just two things.
1. A pause on the demolition to allow the structural engineer who designed the stairs to do a fresh assessment of the condition of the stairs simply because there appears to be no damage to the upper staircases
2. Hire a geotechnical engineering company to provide an assessment of the stability of the slope, and to report on the condition of the failed bulkhead.
To accomplish item number one, we ask that the city hire KLM engineers to take a fresh look at the condition of the stairs.
For item number two, we ask that the city contract with Landau and Associates to do a stability study of the slope and to do an assessment of the condition of the bulkhead.
Lastly, failure to repair a damaged bulkhead will lead to the deterioration of the Seahurst Community Club Bulkhead to the south and to the bulkhead connected to Forest Ledge property to the north.
Tearing out the stairs and spending $734,000 to do so will not solve either one of these problems. A pause and spending a tiny amount of money to take a second look could possibly save our investment in the park and the stairs, as well as save the city from future property damage to neighboring properties.
I would like to add that I am not tone, deaf as to the major subject in this town, which is the homeless, but I’ve done all I can to address that and we have got to realize there are other issues in this town, including sewer, system, problems, potholes, lack of sidewalks, and the possible destruction of our only other beach access. I will be speaking about this tonight at the City council and I encourage, everyone reading this to please understand that we have to address multiple issues in the city of Burien
I would like to add that I am not tone-deaf as to the major subject in this town, which is the homeless, but I’ve done all I can to address that, and we have got to realize there are other issues in this town, including sewer, system, problems, potholes, lack of sidewalks, and the possible destruction of our only other beach access. I will be speaking about this tonight at the City council, and I encourage everyone reading this to please understand that we have to address multiple issues in the city of Burien.