July 2, 2001
Snoqualmie Preservation Initiative ends threat to falls
By Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
SNOQUALMIE - Like the view of Snoqualmie Falls? It's yours to keep, thanks to the work of local officials, conservationists and concerned citizens who saved it from a planned development.
"Preserving those places is what motivates us," said Gene Duvernoy, president of Cascade Land Conservancy, a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization working to preserve lands in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. The group coordinated the falls preservation effort with civic leaders, King County and others who were concerned the planned Falls Crossing development would destroy the pristine area.
Puget Western Inc., developers of the 220-acre site, which is adjacent to the falls, planned to link it with downtown Snoqualmie and the Snoqualmie Ridge development. The current forest backdrop would have been replaced with homes and businesses.
Snoqualmie Mayor R. Fuzzy Fletcher brought King County, the Cascade Land Conservancy and Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company (WRECO) together to explore options for preserving the Falls Crossing site. The Snoqualmie Tribe was also consulted.
The result is the Snoqualmie Preservation Initiative, a comprehensive plan for permanently protecting the view of the falls, preserving up to 9,000 acres of forestlands and establishing framework for managing growth in the Snoqualmie area.
Duvernoy said the Cascade Land Conservancy became involved in the project early last fall.
"Falls Crossing was imminent," he said. "It would have changed the character of the falls. But Puget Western was amenable to selling the property."
In January 2001, the Cascade Land Conservancy negotiated the purchase of the 145-acre portion of the site closest to the falls.
On June 4, the County Council established an agreement committing King County and the city of Snoqualmie to fund the purchase as the first phase of the initiative.
Councilmember Dave Irons co-sponsored the June 4 legislation.
"This really is going to preserve a tremendous amount of land for perpetuity," said Irons, who represents the Snoqualmie area. "It was a true joy to co-sponsor this."
After the June vote, Mayor Fletcher thanked everyone involved.
"We have proven that local jurisdictions can work together to achieve landmarks," he said. "It's been a total community effort. We've come up with a jewel and we've saved the falls, and that's the prize."
Last week they celebrated with the signing of papers in Snoqualmie that transferred control of 145 acres of forestland directly adjacent to Snoqualmie Falls to the city of Snoqualmie.
At the event were King County Executive Ron Sims, Mayor Fletcher, members of the city of Snoqualmie and King County councils, representatives of Cascade Land Conservancy and WRECO, all of whom were involved in the project.
Sims presented Fletcher, the city of Snoqualmie and Cascade Land Conservancy with King County's Earth Legacy Awards for the month of June.
On the eve of the signing of the land transfer last week, Duvernoy couldn't say enough about those he had worked with on the project.
"We had great partners," he said. "The Snoqualmie staff was top-notch, King County staff were superlative and Weyerhaeuser took a progressive approach."
The initiative will result in the public owning the Falls Crossing site near the falls and prohibit any future development of up to 9,000 acres in the Raging River watershed south of I-90, while forestry activities would be maintained and public trails would be created.
However, Snoqualmie Ridge would, over time and subject to extensive environmental and public review, be allowed to expand by up to 521 acres to the south of the current development, and up to 209 acres to the northwest of the current development, as part of a subarea plan of the city of Snoqualmie's Urban Growth Area (UGA), included in the initiative.
The subarea plan added those 521 acres and recommended additional revisions to accommodate future growth. The plan also included a commitment by WRECO to assist with the funding of the Falls Crossing site, and their granting to King County of a conservation easement on 2,800 acres of forest land in the Raging River basin south of I-90, ensuring those lands would never be developed.
In return, a portion of the homes that would have been built on the falls property will be constructed instead in Weyerhaeuser's Snoqualmie Ridge. If the city of Snoqualmie annexes and approves development on the lands added to their UGA, WRECO will finalize payment for the Falls Crossing site.
"It was a trade-off," Duvernoy said. "We were looking to preserve 3,500 acres and 150 acres behind the falls, and Weyerhaeuser will expand their Snoqualmie Ridge development. It's rare that things fall into place as well as this did ... it worked well for the region."