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Honoring Earth Day through Habitat Preservation and Restoration

April 1, 2023

As Earth Day draws near, we invite you to reflect with us on the work we have been doing, and the work we will continue to do, to honor and protect Mother Earth. When it comes to our industry, it’s easy to get wrapped up in things like solar panels, heat pumps, and bamboo flooring, but there’s a lot more to making eco-conscious choices than just what goes into new buildings. It’s important we also consider how to minimize our disruption to habitats when building and how to safely demolish hazardous structures in order to restore wildlife habitats or create places for new, more environmentally-friendly structures in their stead without disrupting other plots of land that may not need to be developed.

Opening our civil division last fall has given us an opportunity to be better environmental stewards. We’ve been proud to partner with organizations like Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association and Whatcom Land Trust in order to enhance and restore fish and wildlife habitats.  In just six months of operating our civil division, we’ve already completed a combined 7 projects with these two stewardship organizations. Our civil production manager, Levi Nyberg, has a passion for fish and wildlife, so it makes sense he came to us not only with decades of dirt work experience, but also with existing relationships with these local nonprofits. Levi’s experience in excavation and demolition for positive environmental impact makes him an important player in our local environmental stewardship ecosystem and we’re proud to have him on our team.

Much of our work with NSEA has been in the way of installing steel or concrete bridges to replace undersized, damaged, or otherwise failing culverts in order to renew safe fish passageways. One of these projects took place in Pepin Creek alongside Double Ditch Road in Lynden where we installed a 35’ long concrete bridge in place of a washed out undersized culvert. “This project is unique,” says Levi, “because most people don’t realize that what they think is just a roadside ditch is actually a fish bearing stream that is used by several species of salmon and trout.” Our team saw many fish travel through the site while working there. Levi continues, “It’s an important reminder to take care of every body of water. Even if it doesn’t have fish or other aquatic life, it almost certainly flows downstream to somewhere that does.”

In Lynden, our team installed this concrete bridge in place of a washed out and undersized culvert, allowing for a safe journey for the salmon and trout that rely on this roadside waterway.



In addition to bridge installation, our work with NSEA has included regrading streambanks. In one particular project along Squalicum Creek, steep streambanks had been created many years ago when the area was cleared for farming. Though that may have worked for the farms at the time, it didn’t work for the fish. We regraded 1000’ of streambanks to a more natural slope and replaced undersized culverts with a 50’ long steel bridge. NSEA then planted those banks with native trees and shrubs that, when fully grown, will help shade the stream and keep water temperature at a healthy level for fish and other life. This project eliminated several of the last remaining barriers keeping salmon from being able to travel freely from Bellingham Bay all the way to Squalicum Lake.

In working with Whatcom Land Trust (WLT), we were able to provide brush clearing and demolition work in support of their Bridge Way coastal wetland habitat restoration project in Blaine. WLT acquired a property through a federal grant that could only be restored to a true functioning wetland habitat if a dilapidated, abandoned, and asbestos-ridden home was demolished and invasive plants were removed. Though the actual demolition happened over the course of a day or two, the process to get there was arduous and took nearly two years due to the permitting and safety precautions required.

It was worth the effort though. “Restoring wetlands helps to mitigate climate change in a myriad of ways by absorbing greenhouse gasses, protecting water quality, reducing flooding, and even recharging drinking water aquifers. This restoration project will have long term impacts on overall ecosystem resilience in the California Creek watershed,” said WLT Stewardship Director Jennifer Mackey.

In Blaine, we removed invasive plants and demolished a dilapidated and abandoned building in order to create a clean canvas for fresh native plantings. This project restored a wetland habitat within the California Creek watershed.


It’s not just the watershed that will benefit. Rather than sitting there for another hundred years to decay further, the 300 cubic yards of debris from the demolished home was sorted. Anything that could be salvaged for recycling was sent to local centers like Lautenbach Recycling. Wood becomes mulch or farm animal bedding, drywall becomes farm animal bedding, wiring and scrap metal is melted down into new metal products, concrete is crushed and becomes a gravel replacement for road construction, and asphalt roofing shingles are shredded and mixed with new asphalt pavement. In this particular project, roughly 75% of the demolition was able to be recycled. Had it not been for an atypical amount of trash and unrecyclable debris in the mix, that percentage would have been higher and is with most demolition we take on.


Though our design-build team can absolutely help you with that green dream home you’ve always wanted, there’s a lot of work our civil team does behind the scenes to help preserve the natural beauty of Whatcom County and make this a sustainable place for generations to come.

Happy [almost] Earth Day!

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“Highline exceeded our expectations.

“Communication was constant, honest and clear. Trevor and his crew were all friendly and professional.  They listened to our requests and delivered.

“We are thrilled with the quality of work! The project was on time and on budget. We will definitely be recommending Highline to our friends and family.”

– Matt Whitten, Bellingham, WA

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