Northwest NEWS

June 12, 2000


Ruralites have already paid for fish habitat protection

This is a copy of a letter sent to the Regional Water Quality Committee, King County Council.

   RE: June 8th Agenda Item #5: Proposed Ordinance 2000-0163 relating to the repeal of SWM fees in the rural area.

   Since for years, the bulk of citizen stormwater runoff complaints have involved missing, misplaced, or plugged culverts, and since--until recently--King County's Surface Water Management (SWM) people have claimed that culverts are the road department's responsibility, then let's solve the culvert funding problems by taking back our diverted rural road taxes from urban road projects.

   Then Councilman Larry Phillips no longer need worry about "an urban subsidy for rural service" and we ruralites won't worry, vice-versa.

   Besides, SWM's claim that its charge is a runoff control fee is shown as untrue by SWM's July 20, 1995 Regional Needs Assessment, which calls for a regionwide funding source "to provide fish habitat restoration/protection grants..." Funding for a Regional Fish Fund (RFF) was to come from increasing the King County Conservation Disitrict assesment--which the county has done--and from re-allocating existing surface water management revenues to RFF priorities.

   Interestingly, there is also an option listed to "Create a region-wide surface water management charge," which is what the SWM "fee" extension implements. There is a sentence under that particular option that is pertinent:

   "Some have suggested that since the purpose of this charge would be to protect fish habitat, the base of taxpayers should be expanded to include agricultural and forest landowners, as well."

   The word "taxpayer" and the listed purpose don't add up to the state's criteria for a "fee" to cover the service of controlling surface water runoff. (The document's following page also stated that the county's River Improvement Fund could be used for "...improving fish habitat and/or increasing open space.")

   The SWM fee was initially not applied to eastern King County because of the high ratio of unbuilt-on land to impervious surface. Since then, the rural zoning and resource-areas zoning have dropped from generally countywide unicorporated-area zoning of one home per acre to one home per 5-to-80 acres.

   There is no justification for the SWM tax to be applied to any non-urban area. We ruralites have already paid for fish habitat protection through downzoning and regulatory-lockup controls; and our road taxes are more than enough to pay for culvert projects.

   Eliminate the SWM tax altogether and put up for public vote a fish habitat protection tax for both city and county voters' approval and passage.

Maxine Keesling, Woodinville