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Environmental challenges continue for new junior high

new junior high by Jeff Switzer
WOODINVILLE--Following several years of controversy and concern by adjoining property owners and environmentalists, the Northshore School District will break ground this week for Junior High No. 6, located in a critical resources area and adjacent to a tributary to Bear Creek.
   The SEPA and conditional use processes have been completed, meaning that King County and the state are satisfied with the mitigations for the $13 million school.
   But with construction ready to commence, area residents and environmentalists worry about siltation from the clearing and grading and long-term problems caused by the intense logging of the site.
   "We have conditions to reduce the impacts hopefully to negligible," said Bear Creek Steward Ray Heller.
   Heller said that as long as the contractor meets the conditions, impacts are minimized. Additionally, strict detention standards are meant to mirror the natural system while the stringent erosion control measures are to be monitored for five years.
   Representatives from the Northshore School District, along with the contractor and consultants, met with area residents last week at Eastridge Elementary to give them an overview of the process, listen to their concerns, and provide further details regarding construction.
   "We've taken every foreseeable avenue to provide protection to the wetlands, the neighbors, and the Bear Creek Basin," said Ty Heim, construction contract administrator with Northshore School District.
   Clearing and grading activities have been restricted to April through August, and the contractor has waited until nearly the end of April due to the wetness of the site. Northshore School District has also contracted with David Evans and Associates to be the watchdog for the site, monitoring the environmental issues along with King County.
   "There is no room for mistakes," said Heller. "It's very difficult, if not impossible, to restore a natural system after you've dumped a lot of sediment into it. The results of not using good practices could be quite devastating."

Limitations on the site
   Eight acres on the north end of the site will remain natural, along with portions of the wetland surrounding the tributary on the east portion of the site. The school site is just east of Bear Creek and has three drainage ponds: two large ones and one small one. The ponds are designed to collect and hold the site's water and release it back into the area at a very slow rate. One pond drains through a biofiltration swale into a Bear Creek tributary; another drains into the area along a gas line to the west.
   These wetlands, both north and east of the site, are considered critical to the health of Bear Creek, and many of the properties to the west make up a conservation area, owned both by the county and private owners whose lands are part in the public benefit rating system, forest taxation, or have conservation easements on them.
   "When completed, these detention ponds will have the most restrictive release rate in the county," said Hal Hagenson, a civil engineer with Bush, Roed, and Hitchings, Inc. "During the construction phase, we're to ensure that mud and silt are cleaned up to the greatest extent possible."
   Hagenson said there will be a silt fence around the perimeter and fences around the wetlands to keep construction out. Also, the detention ponds go in first as part of the erosion control. "We will be using our best management practices throughout the process," Hagenson added.

Residents remain wary
   Heather Poe owns property southwest of the school site and is concerned both about the runoff from the site to her property and what will end up on the clearcut property to the north.
   "There's going to be more erosion, [the school] is going to dry out that area, and the wildlife in my backyard is going to be chased away," Poe said. She added that the recharge is going to be dramatically affected and the increase in traffic will have a gradual effect on the ecology of the whole region. Poe is also concerned about the prospect of students running around in her private woods.
   "We moved here for the country setting and endure the long commute to have privacy, and the school really disrupts the kind of life we were hoping to have," she said.
   Environmental concerns revolve around long-term impacts to the wetlands and the resource area around Bear Creek given the amount of impervious surfaces to be constructed. Other residents are concerned about the increase in traffic for the area.

Ready in time for the 1997-98 school year
   Located north of Woodinville-Duvall Road at the end of 215th Avenue NE, Junior High No. 6 will be the easternmost school in the district.
   Plans show a campus-style plan with three buildings and a central courtyard, housing up to 900 students. At 105,000 square feet, it will be approximately the same size as Skyview Junior High, which opened in Bothell in 1992.
   According to the district, there will be 34 classrooms arranged in a "pod" style with eight to 10 classrooms situated around a central learning space.
   Community advisory committees will work throughout the fall to determine school boundaries and the name of the new school. The boundary decision-making process will be coordinated by an outside facilitator.