Comment period open for Emma Schmitz Memorial seawall project

With an official press release due out as soon as this Monday, Beach Drive Blog has been notified by Seattle Parks and the Seattle District of the US Army Corp of Engineers that public comment is now open in regard to the pending seawall replacement for the southern section of Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook Park. Public Comment closes December 31st 2014. Click here for the Public Notice. Comments may be e-mailed to

Tanya M King, Public Affairs Specialist with the Corp is very interested in being the single point of contact for any unofficial comments or concerns residents may have regarding the project. There are several different public entities within the immediate scope of the project (Seattle Parks, King County sewer and road, City of Seattle utilities & sidewalk, etc) and Tanya is committed to work with all jurisdictions to get your answers “it may take a day or two or even longer in some cases, but I will do my best to make life easier for residents looking for answers or expressing concerns”. Please see Tanya’s contact info at the bottom of post.

We wrote an article back in April when Becky Rufin, Parks Engineering Manager with Seattle Parks & Rec was kind enough to share the 64 page proposed plan for the new seawall. Per Becky’s email today…

If approved by the federal government, the Seattle Parks Department will be entering into a cost-sharing agreement for replacement of this aging structure. Project design and construction would actually be executed by USACE.
Please note there is currently a public review period open for the proposal, and comments must be received by December 31, 2014.

Beach Drive Blog asked Tanya to confirm a few specifics regarding the project. She responded before I could even finish the post!

How much taller will the new wall stand above the existing? 2 to 3 feet

Is any type of railing going to be installed? Too early to tell. Not to that level of design stage yet but it would be built low if built at all.

What if any new landscaping will there be? Would work with parks dept. but low native shrub/vegetation is what we’d expect in respecting neighbor’s views.

One new aspect to the plan is in respect of losing a few feet of public beach when the proposed wall is built in front of the old wall…

Due to the close proximity of the sewer main to the existing seawall structure, moving the alignment of the new seawall landward was assumed to increase the risks of potential failures during construction and significantly increase overall costs of the project. Therefore, the decision was made to move the alignment slightly waterward and mitigate for any nearshore (beach) area lost as a result of the project. A small amount (0.02 acres) of beach would be lost due to the footprint of the new seawall. To offset the loss of habitat, the project would reclaim adjacent beach habitat by removing a portion of riprap placed in the 1998 City of Seattle emergency repair. This entails lengthening the amount of seawall installed in order to stabilize the shoreline back to or near its pre- 1998 alignment and removing the waterward riprap and fill materials. The proposed ratio would be a 1:1 replacement as this habitat reclaims the lost habitat imposed by the new seawall and could begin to function immediately post-construction.

I think Emma herself would be pleased to know her overlook park could grow a little wider…


This 1940’s photo shows Emma (on right) with her daughter-in-law Frankie posing beside the old family mansion that once stood where Mee-Kwa-Mooks Park is now. Courtesy of Bob Thomas who found the photo in an attic of a property he now owns.

Again, please contact Tanya for any unofficial (non-public) questions or concerns regarding this long overdue project,

Tanya M. King
Public Affairs Specialist
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District
206-764-6958 (office)
206-422-2679 (cell)
206-764-3769 (fax) 



Scupper, reporting for Beach Drive Blog

Sunny flash-back Thursday on Beach Drive

The super fine folks at the the Southwest Seattle Historical Society dug up another vintage photo for us to enjoy…


The caption read: “Beach area below Jacobsen Dr on the left approximate location of Emma Schmitz and the houses on what was the orginal orchard area (of the Schmitz estate).”

I lined up the houses and vacant lots in the photo to put the circa between 1921-25. It appears that the old seawall was quite a bit higher and set back further than the current seawall constructed in 1927.  The one remaining mystery of this historic photo is the house(s) to the far north/left. Are they the houses at the north end of the park or were homes at one time built on the wider strip of land of the park? I’m thinking the cameras were just that much better in the 20’s 🙂



The above photo was taken yesterday at low tide. The kids were splashing around where the old sewer/run-off  structure is now. If you’re thinking the water must’ve been freezing and it must’ve been some sort of a double-dog-dare, think again! I measured the water temp in the shallows to be around 75 degrees…no fool’n!!


As far as the “original orchard” is concerned, a life long resident in the area told me that this is likely the last remaining fruit tree still standing from the original Schmitz family estate (now Mee-Kwa-Mooks park)…




Scupper, reporting for Beach Drive Blog

New Seawall for Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook in 2015?

Plans are being finalized for a badly needed revamp for the deteriorating section of seawall at Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook. Rebecca Rufin, PE Parks Engineering Manager was kind enough to reply to Beach Drive Blog’s email inquiry on any future plans to shore up the south portion of the vulnerable seawall.

Currently the US Army Corps of Engineers, with whom we have partnered under a preliminary federal grant program, is putting the finishing touches on a comprehensive study of a seawall replacement proposal.  The study includes analysis of several design options and establishes a preferred approach based on economic, environmental, and other factors.  When the study is complete, it will be sent to the federal offices in Washington DC for final approval and funding.

Assuming it is approved, the preferred design will essentially build a new seawall in front of the existing one, which will be left in place.  The new seawall will be a bit higher.  This would result in a park area adjacent to the street that will be a few feet wider and significantly more level, making it much more amenable for walking trail, landscape elements, and benches. 

As for schedule, we do not anticipate project approval to proceed until sometime this summer.  Detailed design would then commence, with construction likely the summer of 2015.

All the above is subject to change, but it’s the most likely scenario at this time.





















Did I also mention this beauty sits on a fault line?!






















Imagine a another 10+ feet of level park grass.


City and County officials have been eying the need to fix/repair this critical section of bulkhead for nearly a decade. The West Seattle Herald reported back in 2006 about fears of an environmental disaster if something wasn’t done soon. Quoting Les Soule, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers…

“If there is a major storm, there could be a loss of a portion of the seawall,” he said. “We would sure lose the 54-inch sewer main.”

The same article went on to quote Seattle City Councilman Richard Conlin, who served as the chairman of the City Council’s Environment, Emergency Management and Utilities Committee back in ’06…

“The danger of catastrophic failure is real, which is why we are taking it up as an emergency preparedness mitigation project,” Conlin wrote in an e-mail response to questions. “It did fail to the north of this project site in 1998 during a winter storm.”

The sewer line behind the seawall carries about 50 million gallons of sewage a day northward along Beach Drive on its way to the West Point sewage treatment plant, Conlin said.




The following year, this Statement of Intent was entered:



Emma Schmitz Memorial Park-Seawall Repair

(SLI 122-1-A-2)

Statement of Legislative Intent: No later than June 15, 2007, the Department of Parks and Recreation will report to the Council Environment, Emergency Management and Utilities Committee on updated cost estimates and methods, a cost sharing plan and a timeline for repair of the Emma Schmitz Memorial Park Seawall. The Department will work with the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Office of Emergency Management and King County Metro in developing the cost estimates and plans. The Department is also requested to contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to see if they are able to reinitiate funding for the project.

Responsible Council Committee(s): Environment, Emergency Management and Utilities Date Due to Council: June 15, 2007

I hope our tax dollars get put to work on this over-due project before a new wave of storms slam into the seawall.

Hat tip to neighbor Ed for alerting us that something was brewing at the park. His request for donating a park bench for dear friends that have recently passed is being delayed until the Seattle Parks Dept get a clearer picture of pending construction.

Scupper, reporting for Beach Drive Blog

*A case study published in 2008 by a UW student “Planning for Sea Level Rise in Seattle, Washington” centered it’s attention to replacement of the Emma Schmitz seawall. (I know all of you must be eager to hear my book report on it:))

Watch for spectacular “spray” tomorrow on Beach Drive

Mother Nature’s elements are lining up for quite the show after mid-night tonight & through Friday afternoon. A marine forecast calling for near gale force winds combined with tides ranging from 6 to 10 feet is the recipe for huge spray coming off Beach Drive bulkheads. Unlike last December’s storm which flooded several homes along the coastline, tomorrow’s tides are several feet lower.

Photo compliments of David Rosen from last December’s big storm

Great spots to get wet include Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook and Charles Richey Sr View Point (Constellation Park).

Scupper, reporting for Beach Drive Blog

Concerned Beach Drive resident hounds City to repair eroding park

Gotta love our Beach Drive neighbor that's responsible for prompting today's repair work along the vulnerable section of Emma Schmitz Memorial View Point.


It's been very noticeable for all who frequent this narrow sliver of park that the soil has been slowly eroding away year after year just above the concrete sea wall. 


This "super neighbor" (who prefers to be un-named but for this article's sake, we'll refer to her as Mrs. Frack) started her interaction with the City of Seattle back in the middle of December. She quickly learned that the responsibility of maintaining the bulkhead and adjoining landscape belongs to the Seattle Parks Department, the sizable sewer line located directly underneath is responsibility of King County and the City of Seattle maintains the adjoining sidewalk and newly paved street:) 

When a more permanent type of solution was brought up, i.e. extending the existing bulkhead type rockery located just north of where the park narrows, a representative from the parks department replied…

"any change to the existing seawall would need to be done with the approval of various environmental regulatory agencies. Note that extending the existing "bulkhead rockery", while perhaps the lowest-cost construction solution that could be pursued, is also a measure that is considered environmentally detrimental by such agencies, and might be difficult or impossible to get approved."

Well, for now, I'm happy for the temporary maintenance to this narrow section of the park and ecstatic that when Mrs. Frack locks on to a cause, there's just no saying no! 

Hmmm, I wonder if she had something to do with these public work orders… 



Scupper, reporting for Beach Drive Blog

Justin: the Day After and Wrap Up

After two days of looking out our windows and watching the events unfold of salvaging Justin, the WWII vessel that was being used to assist with building a new bulkhead off of Beach Drive, it seemed refreshingly calm to only have this scene this morning.

We did wake up to flyovers from the Coast Guard to survey the area.

It didn't take too long for crews to show up to start salvaging items from the floor of Puget Sound.



It also appears that some patch repairs are being done to the vessel above (which had water pumped from it from damage this weekend).  Note the diver on the smaller boat.


It looks like this anchor pole is being removed, possibly for repairs.


Update 9:40 am October 17, 11:  More photos from Scupper showing the main barge that Justin was tied to showing the patch repair.




If you'd like to see all the photos that Scupper and I captured of this event, you're welcome to check them out on our Flickr page by clicking here.

Just In: Justin

Update 9:30 am, October 16, 2011: We've added a couple more of our favorite photos.  We'll be posting a collection of our "Justin" photos from the past few days soon.

Scupper shivered his timbers capturing some great photos of the salvaging of the once sunk vessel off Beach Drive, Justin.

Because it's late and we typically don't blog as late as West Seattle Blog, we're going to share a few photos tonight and we'll update this tomorrow morning with more.  Scupper took over 100 shots after nightfall alone and we want to select and share what we think are the best. 

Here's a preview.








Justin is enroute to Tacoma per employees of Waterfront Construction.

Good news, Scupper found the owner of the hard hat that he found floating in the Sound.  Hat and head will be reunited soon.

Watch for this post to be updated tomorrow!

Raising Justin: the Sunken Vessel off of Beach Drive

Justin is the 75 foot vessel that sank yesterday off the shores of Beach Drive causing a fuel spill in the waters of Puget Sound.  It’s a WWII style landing craft that was being used to carry boulders and material back and forth for construction of a bulkhead for a home located around the 5400 block of Beach Drive.  We have our coverage, including photos and video posted hereWe will be updating this post throughout the day.  If you have photos, videos or tips you would like to share, please contact us!

This morning, they are preparing the raise Justin.


Throughout the night, the area was patrolled by the Coast Guard with their blue lights flashing.  During the wee hours, a new barge with a crane has joined this attempt to fix the “Beach Drive Bulkhead Blunder”.  Helicopters are already flying over this morning.


Tides just passed the first high tide of 10.09 at 8:08 this morning and will be slightly heading down to a low of 6.53 at 1:43 pm followed by the next high of 9.83 at 6:43 pm.  At 1:40 am tomorrow, the tide will be at a low -0.64.  According to various weather reports, it should be a crisp, sunny day following some morning fog.  The tides and weather appear to be in Justin’s favor.

9:30 am update:  The large crane is being positioned and there is a diver(s) in the water.



9:50 am update:  we’ve noticed sheen from the fuel spill up to the shores of the 4700 block of Beach Drive (by Emma Schmitz Memorial Viewpoint).


West Seattle Blog’s continuing coverage is here. and…

West Seattle Herald’s continuing coverage is here.

10:20 am update:  Scuppers notes that the cable that has been connected (to Justin?) has not budged in the last hour (watch the red diamond in the center of the photo).



Scupper is heading out in the BDB Zodiak to investigate how far north the fuel sheen has spread.

Update 10:30 am: the cable just pulled up something – not sure if it’s a metal part from Justin, possibly a piece of it’s railing?


Update 11:25 am:  Scupper has returned with video showing a thicker slick north of Emma Schmitz View Point (4600 Beach Drive).  We wish the media could get a shot from the air to show the current extent of the fuel slick.

A seal pops up to check out the seen.


2:10pm update: We can see Justin!


Crew has rigged up new larger strap.



Update 4:30 pm: the crew has rigged two harnesses around Justin and making adjustments, preparing to raise the sunken vessel.


The sunset will be around 6:202 tonight with the tide heading back down at 6:45pm.

5:37 pm update:  We’re seeing more of what appears to be Justin’s cabin.


6:00 pm update: more photos of Justin as the vessel continues to be lifted from Puget Sound and of the Coast Guard helicopter that has been circling overhead.





7:15 pm update… more photos compliments of Scupper.







Click here for more night photos and the final stages of salvaging the sunk vessel, Justin.

Coast Guard Boats off the shores of Beach Drive: Water Rescue – Sunken Vessel

EDITORS NOTE: We will continue to update this post throughout the day as the story of the sunken vessel and fuel spill off of Beach Drive continues.

Two armed Coast Guard boats that typically escort Washington Ferries are cruising the shores off Beach Drive. They seem to be spending a lot of time by the crane and one of the boats has a crew member at one of the gun stations.


Update: it appears to be a water rescue off of 5411 Beach Dr SW per Seattle 9-1-1.

Update 8:34 am: it appears that "loader" type boat used in delivering rocks to this bulkhead capsized this morning. More info (and photos) to follow.

Update 8:58 am: King 5 News reports that the vessel that sank is 75 feet long and an obsorbant oil boom is being deployed. West Seattle Blog reports that no one was believed to be on board – King 5 news states it is unknown and that divers are in the water.

Update 9:05 am: it looks like this vessel sank around high tide, which was 11.1 ft at 7:30 am, we're heading towards a low tide of 6.1 at 1:00 pm.

The vessel is tied to the crane/barge operated by Waterfront Construction.

The 75 foot vessel appeared to have been a WWII landing craft that was being used to deliver rocks for the building of the new bulkhead off Beach Drive. It sank about 100 yards from a very popular dive spot "The Rock Pile" that is rich with ling cod and other bottom fish.





Update 9:30 am: Here is a photo we captured last Wednesday which includes a landing craft, quite possibly the one that is now sank and leaving fuel.


This photo of The Justin, was taken on October 4, 2011.



Update 10:00am booms being deployed to try to contain the fuel spill.




This appears to be the back up crane that may be used in recovering the sunken vessel along with two Coast Guard ships.



Update 10:50 am: Efforts to contain the fuel spill.


Update 12:42 pm: Attempts to lift the sunk vessel are taking place with water being pumped off the crane/barge.


Looks like boats from NRC (National Resource Consultants?) are on scene to check out impacts on the environment.


Update 1:30pm (hat tip West Seattle Blog via Twitter) from the Coast Guard's News Release:

It has been confirmed that no one was on board when the vessel sank. The owner of the vessel has reported there is approximately 300 gallons of diesel and 50 gallons of motor oil on board. There is an approximate 600 by 300-foot sheen on the water.

A sheen of diesel fuel this size will deteriorate as it is exposed to elements and natural wave action, but petroleum spills of any size cause environmental damage to water.

The responsible party has contracted National Response Corp. Environmental Services, which is on scene deploying boom, a skimmer and absorbent pads to contain and absorb the spill. They have also contracted divers to contain potential pollution. As the vessel was sinking, efforts were made by the responsible party to plug the fuel vents to prevent pollution.

Agencies are flying over the scene to survey the spill.

This photo just in from Scupper: "Safety is Everyone's Business"


4:50 pm update: a news truck has been parked by Emma Schmitz View Point next to an NCS dumpster.


Scupper picked up this hard hat with other trash.


Update 5:00pm: Channel 7 reports that the barge was damaged by the sinking vessel and was taking on water which is why the water was being pumped out.

KOMO-4 has footage interviewing Scupper, who was giving the media rides on the BDB Zodiak for close up views. A lot of the close-up footage is courtesy of Scupper – tune in at 6:00 and 11:00!


Newest Bulkhead on Beach Drive

Update October 14, 2011:  apparently the construction of this bulkhead may be involved with the 75 foot sunken vessel of Waterfront Construction, causing a fuel spill. Read Beach Drive Blog's coverage here.

Our intrepid reporter, Scupper, decided to check out the barge that was heading to a newer Beach Drive home.  How often can you watch a bulkhead being built?