Northwest NEWS

July 26, 1999


Rural drainage package should be put on hold

   Rural eastern King County and Vashon Island property owners should not be deluded into accepting King County's proposed "new drainage package (intended) to reduce stormwater drainage problems, manage lakes, and help property owners preserve our rural heritage."

   This is merely an extension of the surface water management (SWM) charge imposed by King County in the mid-1980s on western urbanized unicorporated King County. The eastern-county and Vashon rural areas weren't included because urban runoff wasn't a problem.

   Almost immediately, the urban stormwater control element of the SWM drainage utility was ignored in favor of fish habitat enhancement projects, with the important runoff issues of too-small plugged culverts dismissed by SWM as others' responsibility. To avoid the public accusations that SWM was avoiding its official responsibility as spelled out through 1994 on the backs of our real estate tax statements, in 1995 the statement was changed, directing those with questions to call SWM.

   Previously the statement read, "This is a service charge, not a tax. The revenues from this charge are used to control surface water runoff." Since from the beginning, the SWM "service charge" has not been used for "service," the existing SWM charge for western King County shoudl be called the fish habitat tax it actually is. It should be combined with what's proposed for eastern King County and Vashon into one overall uniform tax package in which a spade is called a spade and people fully understand what is covered by the tax (NOT service charge).

   Citizens should closely question the truth of government "scientific" assertations that lead to expensive, expanding bureacracies for solving dire "problems." It's important to know that contrary to gloom-and-doom statements about ever-worsening water quality probems, water quality has been steadily improving. The 1994 enviromental impact statement for the King County Comprehensive Plan stated about water quality that "All rivers and streams in the County are classified either (excellent) or (extraordinary) with the exception of (a certain portion) of Duwamish River which is classified (good)." (The Duwamish has one of the best salmon returns in King County.)

   Then there's the answer to a recent question to the State Department of Ecology (DOE) regarding fecal coliform problems in our streams from waterfowl and livestock manure. Contrary to what has been hammered into us that wide treed stream buffers are needed to protect fish from pasture runoff, the DOE spokesman said that fecal coliform runoff from waterfowl and livestock pastures does NOT adversely affect fish. What an amazing thing to learn about in a casual phone call about "limiting factors" in watershed.

   When reputable scientists emphatically state that the overriding factors affecting fish are ocean conditions, overfishing, and natural predators, we should insist that our officials analyze the cumulative impacts of the SWM charges, the King County Conservation District charge that was recently quadrupled to enhance fish habitat, the Waterways 2000 program spending, and numerous federal and state fish spending programs to see what kind of band we're getting for the buck.

   While that is being done, King County's Rural Drainage Package should be put on hold.

Maxine Keesling, Woodinville