May 10, 1999
WOODINVILLE--The Woodinville Planning Commission has sent a recommendation to the City Council which would allow expansion of the current 100-foot buffer along Little Bear Creek and other salmon spawning creeks to 200 feet.
"People haven't realized it yet, but the National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) March 9 Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing Chinook salmon can do to the Puget Sound region what the spotted owl issue did to the economy of Forks," said Planning Commission Chair Gareth Grube. "This is a very serious threat that isn't 'way out on the Peninsula' anymore; it's right here in Woodinville. This is the first time the National Marine Fisheries Service has threatened an entire region, the Puget Sound basin, with this kind of action."
Grube said local governments are always hesitant to restrict people's use of their own land, but stressed the power of the hammer held by the federal government.
"The federal government could enforce a complete moratorium on building or other salmon habitat-threatening activity in the Puget Sound basin," said Grube. "The result of that could be as extreme as to give every citizen the power to file suit against any other person who potentially harms a spawning area by walking through it in rubber boots, or causes dirt to be washed into a stream from landscaping their yard."
The city and county governments within the tri-county area (King-Snohomish-Pierce) have bonded together to open discourse with the NMFS for enacting solutions that address the ESA, Grube said.
"As long as local governments continue to enact solutions within the guidelines they've all agreed upon, they are protected under a legal 'umbrella' from litigation by the federal government," said Grube. "With this serious issue, we all must move faster toward a solution than government agencies normally move."
Grube added, "Little Bear Creek is a stream that is very healthy at the upper end, in Snohomish County, but it gets pretty muddy on our end. If citizens start reacting to these regional responses to the ESA by filing suits over their personal property rights, they could be engaging a much larger issue than they might imagine."