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Doris Duke Conservation Scholars visit I-90 corridor

Patty_Craig_DDSatI-90Partners working to maintain and restore habitat connectivity in the I-90 corridor hosted the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars in the field yesterday to help them see what connectivity conservation looks like on the ground and why it is so important.  The Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at the University of Washington brings together a diverse, committed, and exciting group of students from around the country for an 8-week journey from the urban jungle to the old growth forest and back in Washington. They explore why conservation can make a difference, and how they can make a difference in conservation.

On their first day leaving the urban jungle of Seattle, they arrived at Gold Creek pond just east of Snoqualmie Pass to begin their afternoon journey in the I-90 corridor.  They were met by Craig Broadhead (WSDOT), Patty Garvey-Darda (US Forest Service), Jen Watkins (Conservation Northwest and I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition), Aja Woodrow (US Forest Service), and Josh Zylstra (WSDOT).  Over lunch they got an overview on the regional context of how the I-90 corridor is the connective link between Washington’s north and south Cascades, and why connectivity is so important for fish and wildlife today and into a changing future.  Then, the students were taken on a tour through the I-90 corridor that included remote camera checks and visits to the wildlife underpasses already constructed.

Today the scholars moved on to other locations and experiences in the Washington including heading further north into the Cascades, and hopefully now with an understanding everytime they drive I-90 of how important the landscape surrounding them is.

Creative ideas for Snoqualmie Pass wildlife crossings win scholarships for 2 high school students

"The structure I am proposing is a bridge, not unlike a normal highway entrance/exist overpass," said contest winner Connor Gill.  "The more natural look and setting of the crossing should increase use of the bridge by animals."

“The structure I am proposing is a bridge, not unlike a normal highway entrance/exist overpass,” said contest winner Connor Gill. “The more natural look and setting of the crossing should increase use of the bridge by animals.”

Two Washington high school students are earning green for college in a scholarship contest focused on bringing fresh ideas to creating safer passage for wildlife and motorists on I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass.

Connor Gill, a sophomore at Delta High School in Richland, received a $1500 scholarship from the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition and a week-long adventure with the Cascade Mountain School for submitted an essay and artistic rendition of a wildlife overpass that garnered the top votes from our review panel. Second prize went to Sarah Zhou, a junior at Issaquah High School, whose essay and designs allowed wildlife to move both under and over the interstate earning her a $500 scholarship.

“Connor is an engineer in the making. He did a great job creating a bridge design for wildlife,” said Brian White, Assistant Regional Administrator for Project Development and I-90 with the Washington Department of Transportation after a review of the entries. “Sarah did a wonderful job designing and explaining her wildlife crossing concept. She obviously did her homework about the dangers I-90 poses to wildlife.”

In the 2014 Bridging Futures Scholarship contest co-hosted by the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, high school students from across the state were asked to provide concepts that tackle the same problem WSDOT engineers are solving: Building a wildlife crossing over I-90. The crossing had to be similar to the structure scheduled to be built in 2015 near the Price Noble Creek Sno-Park and temporary rest area. The wildlife crossing is part of the second phase of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project.

Entries were reviewed by coalition and WSDOT staff to select the winners. “Connor and Sarah showed a real grasp of the challenges when wildlife encounter highways, and suggested creative solutions to insure safe passage for the animals as well as vehicles on I-90.They both incorporated elements to insure the passages are effective for a wide variety of wildlife species. We are pleased to be able to help further their education,” said Charlie Raines, I-90 Wildlife Bridges Director.

"I-90 is dangerous to many species of wildlife such as deer, elk, coyotes, and bobcats who want to move freely between habitats on both sides of the highway," said runner-up Sarah Zhou in her essay.

“I-90 is dangerous to many species of wildlife such as deer, elk, coyotes, and bobcats who want to move freely between habitats on both sides of the highway,” said runner-up Sarah Zhou in her essay.

In addition to wildlife crossings that help reconnect habitat in the central Cascades, WSDOT is improving I-90 by building a new six-lane freeway from Hyak to Keechelus Dam. This project:

  • Replaces deteriorated concrete pavement in the existing lanes and shoulders for a smoother ride
  • Stabilizes rock slopes to reduce the risk of rocks falling onto the roadway
  • Extends chain-up and -off areas to improve safety
  • Straightens sharp curves to improve visibility
  • Replaces the snowshed east of Snoqualmie Pass with new avalanche bridges
  • Adds lights, traffic cameras and variable message signs.

WSDOT received funding from the 2005 gas tax package to design and construct this project. The first five miles of improvements are scheduled to be complete in 2017.

Hyperlinks within the news item:

  • I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Web page: www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I90/SnoqualmiePassEast/
  • I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition: www.i90wildlifebridges.org/
  • Connor Gill’s winning entry:  Essay and artistic design
  • Sarah Zhou’s runner-up entry:  Essay and artistic design

Bridging Futures has been an annual contest since 2006 co-hosted by Washington Department of Transportation and I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, click here to learn more about its history.

 

 

 

First terrestrial crossing under Gold Creek underpass

Credit:  WSDOT

Credit: WSDOT

The image may be a little blurry, but it is historical.  On May 19, 2014 a deer was caught on one of Washington Department of Transportation’s remote cameras placed underneath one of the completed Gold Creek underpasses in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. 

This photograph was complimented by a report from a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife employee who witnessed two deer walking through the same underpass.

You may remember our cameras in the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project captured a swimming mammal last year under one of the Gold Creek underpasses, and now we have our first terrestrial safe crossing.

Stay tuned as the story continues to unfold, and more safe crossings happen through these underpasses.

 

CWU opens exhibit on I-90 crossings – April 17th

Cougar.  Credit:  WDFW

Cougar. Credit: WDFW

Central Washington University’s Museum of Culture and Environment will host an opening reception for its latest exhibit, How did the Cougar Cross the Road: Restoring Wildlife Passages at Snoqualmie Pass, at 5:30 p.m. April 17.

Refreshments will be served as visitors explore the brand new exhibit that tells the story of wildlife connectivity corridors linking animal populations formerly divided by Interstate 90. Follow in the footsteps of native fauna over a recreated wildlife overpass and discover how the cougar crosses the road, and how humans are helping.

A series of speakers including Yvonne Prater, author of Snoqualmie Pass: From Indian Trail to Interstate; Al Aronica (Kittitas Band of the Yakama Nation), Brian White (WSDOT), Jason Smith (WSDOT) and Patty Garvey-Darda (USFS) will discuss their knowledge and research concerning the history of Snoqualmie Pass and its wildlife passages. For more information, go to www.cwu.edu/museum.

The Museum of Culture and Environment is at CWU on the first floor of Dean Hall, 1200 N. D St., in Ellensburg. The museum is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Parking is free on the CWU campus after 4:30 p.m. and on weekends. For more information, email Museum@cwu.edu or call 963-2313.

Press contact: Sarah Jane Johnson, Central Communication Agency, 253-350-7322253-350-7322, johnsonsar@cwu.edu

Press: I-90 underpasses already producing results

Researchers conducting monitoring along I-90.  Credit:  Yakima Herald

Researchers conducting monitoring along I-90. Credit: Yakima Herald

The Yakima Herald featured an article showing how the wildlife underpasses constructed as part of Phase 1 of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project are already showing results for fish and wildlife.

Craig Broadhead of the Department of Transportation is quoted in the article stating, “To me, one of the key things is that we’re not just focusing on the big animals. We’re going down to the small stuff….We’re trying to connect populations for everything, not just the big things that can move pretty well.”

Click here to read the article.

Cascade Mountain School offers award to winner of our scholarship contest

cascademtnschoolKicking off the new year the Cascade Mountain Institute has offered additional incentives for statewide highschool juniors and seniors to enter our 2014 Bridging Futures Scholarship contest – a free week of exploration and learning at Mount Hood.  As we announced in December, our 2014 scholarship contest co-hosted with the Washington Department of Transportation asks students to bring their ideas to solving a need to create safer passage for motorists and wildlife just east of Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90.  The winner of this contest will receive a $1500 scholarship award for higher education, as well as a complimentary course to experience the outdoors while learning through Cascade Mountain School.  The runner up this year will receive a $500 scholarship award.

The Cascade Mountain School, a project of the Mt. Adams Institute, believes students should be given a real-world context for their learning and be pushed to analyze and synthesize information to understand the world around them. They offer a dynamic learning environment, one in which senses are enlivened and academics become relevant to daily life.  The Mount Hood Mountain to Mouth Camp runs July 20-25, 2014 and combines science learning with outdoor adventure.  it provides everything you would want in a summertime excursion: backpacking, biking, kayaking, and traveling on snow and ice.  It starts at close to 8,000 feet on Mt. Hood and attendees make their way downstream to the Columbia River through the Hood River Valley. Along the way attendees will meet with local stakeholders and scientists to investigate glaciers, climate change, fisheries, and conservation. If the Bridging Futures contest winner is unable to attend the Mt Hood Mountain to Mouth Camp week, they can work with the Cascade Mountain Institute to arrange attending another program as possible at a comparable cost.

Cascade Mountain School Director, Emily Goodwin, is “thrilled to partner with the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Competition and offer this year’s winner a week of experiential science and multi-sport outdoor adventure around Mt. Hood.  We can’t wait to meet this year’s winner!  The type of students who are inspired to create solutions to our most pressing environmental problems are just the type of students who thrive at Cascade Mountain School, an outdoor summer science program based in the Columbia Gorge.”

So, if you or your students were waiting for one more reason to create solutions to an important wildlife and transportation issue in our state – it has arrived.  Learn more about the contest and view resources to help in preparing your entry.  Entries must be postmarked by May 2, 2014.

Sophomore year of scholarship program for high school junior and seniors is launched

Sketch of potential I-90 overcrossing.  Credit:  WSDOT

Sketch of potential I-90 overcrossing. Credit: WSDOT

The Washington State Department of Transportation and the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition are kicking off the second year of the Bridging Futures scholarship program, asking students: “How should our future highways protect animals?”

Washington high school juniors and seniors interested in engineering, the environment or art should bring their ideas forward and apply for this scholarship.

“WSDOT is making some very high-tech advances in environmental design,” said Charlie Raines, I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition director. “We hope this scholarship program will inspire future engineers or environmental advocates.”

The student that best illustrates and explains their idea will receive a $1,500 scholarship toward college from the Wildlife Bridges Coalition. The runner-up receives a $500 scholarship.

The scholarship application needs to include a model, blueprint or graphic of a wildlife crossing over a six-lane highway and an essay explaining how the model demonstrates the importance of wildlife crossings within the I-90 corridor. The essay must be no less than 500 words and may not exceed two pages. Applications must be postmarked by May 2, 2014.

Students can download applications from Washboard.org and search for 2014 Bridging Futures, or on the 2014 Bridging Futures Scholarship contest webpage.

Winners will be announced in early June 2014.

WSDOT engineers are designing the first wildlife crossing in the state, which will be built in 2015. The structure will be located 10 miles east of Snoqualmie Pass as part of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project.

“Winners from our 2013 scholarship contest were from Spokane and Seattle, and brought innovative design ideas for the Price-Noble wildlife overpass to the table,” said Jen Watkins of the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition.  “We are really looking forward to what new ideas emerge this year.”

Hyperlinks in this news item:

•    I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East – Hyak to Keechelus Lake project Web page:
www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I90/SnoqualmiePassEast/HyaktoKeechelusDam/
•    I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition Contest web page: www.i90wildlifebridges.org/bridging-futures-2014
•    WashBoard.org Web page: www.washboard.org

 

Tell legislators to fund completion of I-90 project

Map of phases within the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.

Map of phases within the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.

Discussion this fall of a special November session of the Washington State legislature to address transportation priorities provides an opportunity to fund completion of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.

The transportation project is a 15-mile transportation improvement package to Washington State’s most important east-west transportation corridor. Some 27,000 vehicles—freight, commuters, and tourists—cross daily over I-90 and Snoqualmie Pass through the Cascades.  This east-west economic lifeline, moving goods and people, bisects one of our state’s most important north-south wildlife corridors, easing travel of animals from elk to wolverines, in the Cascade Mountains. The innovative design of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project contributes to Washington’s economy and ecology.

The legislature has already funded design and construction of the project’s first 6 miles (Phases 1 and 2A), recognizing the I-90 project’s importance to our state. The portion of the I-90 project currently under construction has come in both on time and under budget—not a common theme in transportation mega-projects these days. But $390 million is needed to complete the final 9 miles.

From 9/17 to 10/15/13, leaders from the Washington Senate Transportation Committee are holding listening sessions around the state to hear people’s concerns and suggestions for transportation and priorities. Let Washington’s legislators know that you have put $390 million for I-90 and wildlife on your wish list this year.

Volunteers Needed: I-90 habitat restoration projects

Volunteer planting natives at Gold Creek in fall 2012.

Volunteer planting natives at Gold Creek in fall 2012.

Volunteers are needed for habitat restoration in the I-90 corridor this summer and fall.  Come get your hands dirty and help improve wildlife habitat in this critical landscape.  Click on the opportunities below to learn more.

August 15th:  Weed pull and chip spreading party at Gold Creek

August 17th:  Amabilis Mount invasive plant removal

September 28th:  Native planting party at Gold Creek

Look at the Conservation Northwest Flickr gallery to see the difference volunteers have been making this year and last restoring native vegetation at Gold Creek just north of the two wildlife underpasses constructed in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.

 

Creative ideas for Snoqualmie Pass wildlife crossings win scholarships for 2 high school students

Brydon Eakins's winning computer design for an overpass submitted to the 2013 Bridging Futures contest.

Brydon Eakins’s winning computer design for an overpass submitted to the 2013 Bridging Futures contest.

A first place tie means two Washington high school students are earning green for college in a scholarship contest focused on Interstate 90 wildlife crossings.

Brydon Eakins, a senior at University High School in Spokane and Elaina Thomas, a junior at Garfield High School in Seattle, both received a $1,000 scholarship from the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition today.

In our 2013 Bridging Futures scholarship contest, statewide high school junior and senior students were asked to provide concepts that tackle the same problem Washington State Department of Transportation engineers are solving: building a wildlife crossing over I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass. The crossing had to be designed for the same location as the first funded wildlife overpass in second phase of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project, which is scheduled to be built in 2015 a mile southeast of Keechelus Dam.

Juniors and seniors from across the state submitted scholarship entries that all proposed creative solutions to provide safer passage for both wildlife and motorists on Interstate 90.  Entries ranged from 3D models to computer simulations to hand drawn blueprints.

“We received an incredible response from very talented high school students, making our job to select the best an exciting challenge,” said Charlie Raines, contest judge and Wildlife Bridges Coalition director. “Two students stood out in their work, and how ironic that these two students reside in cities that bookend I-90 – Spokane and Seattle.”

Entries were screened to select a Top 5 that went to a judging panel of transportation and project area experts.  The judging panel included Charlie Raines (I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition Director), Kirk Holmes (Kittitas County Public Works Director), Douglas MacDonald (former Washington State Transportation Secretary), Congressman Dave Reichert, State Senator Curtis King, and Lynn Peterson (current Washington State Transportation Secretary).

“These are all amazing young people that put a lot of effort into the submittals.  I was very proud, and a bit humbled, to have been able to participate,” said contest judge Kirk Holmes.

Brydon Eakins submitted a computer designed model (images above) that incorporate design features on the exterior for motorists to view as they passed under, and as his essay stated “demonstrates wildlife connectivity by embracing nature and quite literally covering the roadway with a blanket of natural vegetation and surroundings.”

Elaina Thomas submitted a 3D model that incorporate detailed features to “be visually appealing, to fit in the landscape, and act as a showcase.”  Her design incorporated remote cameras to monitor wildlife, renewable sources of energy, a water feature for animals as they cross over the interstate, and designs to ensure a safer route for motorists.

“We appreciate all of the students that entered this contest, and congratulate the two winners,” said Brian White of WSDOT.  “We’ll be displaying the designs in our headquarter office over the summer to share these great ideas, and hope the students return from college to see the real crossing structure on I-90 when it is complete.”

All students in the Top 5 will receive a $50 gift card donated by REI, and are invited to share their design ideas with the official interdisciplinary team working with the Department of Transportation to finalize design for the official wildlife overpass.

WSDOT received funding from the 2005 gas tax package to design and construct this project. The first five miles of improvements are scheduled to be complete in 2017.

Essays and photos from the Top 5 entries in the contest including the two scholarship winners are available at http://i90wildlifebridges.org/bridging-futures-2013-entries

Contacts: 

Meagan McFadden, WSDOT communications, 509-577-1618 (Yakima)
Summer Derrey, WSDOT communications, 509-577-1943 (Yakima)
Jen Watkins, Conservation Northwest, 206-940-7914 (Seattle)