County Council amends Bear Creek Basin Plan
by Jeff Switzer
The County Council passed two ordinances setting clearing restrictions, enhancing stream buffers, and giving public agency exemptions in the Bear Creek Basin.
The ordinance limits clearing to 35 percent of a site, or 60 percent if onsite drainage facilities are constructed.
Buffers for streams have been enhanced. Class 1 streams shall have a 100-foot buffer, as will class 2 streams used by salmon; class 2 streams will have a 50-foot buffer; and class 3 streams shall have a 25-foot buffer.
Specifically in the Bear Creek Basin, class 1 and 2 streams used by salmon shall have a 150-foot buffer; a class 2 stream not used by salmon will have a 100-foot buffer; and a class 3 stream will have a 50-foot buffer, except if in a Regionally Significant Resource Area (RSRA), which will then have a 100-foot buffer.
"I worked hard with Terry Lavender and Wendy Walsh and we accomplished what we wanted: getting setbacks for salmonids and getting Surface Water Management to go out and look at the streams," Miller said "The clearing restrictions have also been modified and make it so that you can clear more under the new ordinance than you could under the old plan."
Miller also worked in caveats for the "shall" when it came to giving exemptions to public agencies such as schools, fire stations, parks, libraries, hospitals, and roads, allowing them to apply for exemptions given they meet criteria such as not being in an RSRA, except for utility corridors with no alternative; clears the minimum needed for the proposed use; meets onsite detention provisions.
"I fought long and hard for the permissive language and I hope that the people concerned about Bear Creek and the UPDs will understand that this is a big victory," Miller added.
Ordinance 92-614 had been in committee for three years, jointly referred to Growth Management, Housing and Environment, and also to Utilities and Natural Resources Committee. It left the Growth Management Committee without recommendation on Sept. 6.
With some finagling and two hours of discussion, the ordinance passed by a vote of 10-3, with Councilmembers Vance and Hague and Council Chair Pullen voting against the ordinance.
The second ordinance, 95-568, a companion piece to 92-614, extends the first ordinance into the surrounding area and headwaters of Bear Creek, also passed by a vote of 11-1-1, with Pullen voting no and Councilmember Nickels excused.
Councilmember Miller was first to present her amendments, which failed 7-6. Councilmembers Fimia and Sims offered amendments which also failed, in part because they failed to protect RSRAs from maximum clearing.
In response, Sims moved to reconsider Miller's amendments, the motion carrying 8-5, with Miller's amendments passing 10-3.
Councilmember Vance has opposed the wider buffers set forth in the ordinance all along, and said that this ordinance is the "neutron bomb of regulations."
"There was a strong case in Issaquah to restrict clearing to 35 percent because of flooding," Vance said. "We all want to protect salmon, but do we want a blanket across the whole Basin or are we going to use the SAO?" Vance asked.
In voting against the measure, Vance maintained that he opposes buffers more stringent than in the Sensitive Areas Ordinance and that the Department of Development and Environmental Services already has the power to set specific buffers for streams.
DDES and the council maintains that the stronger regulations will make it easier to enforce rather than incurring greater costs going stream by stream.