Northwest NEWS

April 9, 2001

Features

Snoqualmie River 'Alive and Well'

King County Executive Ron Sims and civic and community leaders this week declared the Snoqualmie River to be thriving as a result of their collective efforts to protect the rural character and control sprawl in that area.
   Sims noted that more than 80 percent of the land within the Snoqualmie watershed is within specially designated agricultural and forest districts, with more than three-quarters of the watershed permanently committed to forestry. In addition, 121,000 acres in forestland and 12,000 acres in farmlands have been enrolled in the Current Use Taxation Program to minimize the property tax burden on these critical resource areas.
   To supplement these designations, King County has permanently protected more than 11,000 acres of habitat, open space and farmlands in the Snoqualmie Watershed at a cost of more than $35 million in the last decade. In February, Sims proposed an innovative $13 million program that would preserve an additional 9,000 acres in the watershed, including the viewshed at Snoqualmie Falls, a sacred site for the Snoqualmie Tribe and a tourist destination for over 1 million people annually.
   The Executive's Office says it is expected that the national environmental group American Rivers will, on April 11, name the Snoqualmie River as one of the most endangered in the United States because of that group's perception that the river is threatened by growth and sprawl.
   "While I respect American Rivers for their longstanding commitment to protect rivers, I think they made the wrong call on the Snoqualmie," said Sims. "While protection of the Snoqualmie River will always require vigilance, I am proud of the successes we have already achieved. Thanks to the farsightedness of local, state and federal governments, the Snoqualmie is in excellent condition and is one of the most protected rivers in the region.
   "Our growth management and regulatory efforts are an important start in ensuring this river's long term health, and ongoing efforts will continue to keep this river alive and well," said Sims. "But we would not have reached our current level of stewardship without regional public and private efforts to protect the Snoqualmie."
   The Snoqualmie watershed encompasses nearly 700 square miles, with some of the healthiest populations of wild salmon and trout populations, according to a report from the Executive's Office. Much of the area below the Snoqualmie Falls is agriculture production district land, and the county has spent $6 million to purchase development rights for more than 4,600 acres of agricultural land.
   This permanently protects it from development, encourages farming and provides a natural flood storage capacity that would be impossible for any public agency to replace.
   Recent habitat protection efforts include the purchase of 152 acres of high quality chinook salmon habitat using federal and state grants, and local Conservation Futures funds. Purchases include nine acres along the lower Tolt River, 53 acres along the lower Raging River, 31 acres along the Snoqualmie River near the the Raging River and 59 acres along the Snoqualmie River near the Tolt River.
   King County was also recently awarded nearly $1 million in State Salmon Recovery Funding Board funds to support further protection of salmon habitat.