November 26, 2001
Should public dollars go back-to-naturing the Sammamish River, or recreation?
The Woodinville Weekly's notice about the meeting on Sammamish River restoration led to an interesting evening at City Hall where comments were not one-sided.
The proposed restoration, which is focused on fish and wildlife habitat back-to-naturing, is a continuation of the proposal that back in 1991 was publicized as costing $300,000. When it was included in King County's so-called Flood Hazard Reduction Plan, the cost estimate had risen to $14.5 million. When queried as to today's estimate, the staff response at City Hall was we-don't-know, but a seemingly-knowledgeable audience member estimated "about 40 million."
The biggest river problem is the warm water temperatures, which have been heavily publicized as being curable by planting shade trees. Staff stated what has been previously said, but not publicized, that the high temperatures are caused by withdrawing warm surface water over the weir at the mouth of the river at Lake Sammamish. Curing that is mighty expensive and environmentally tough to do.
Audience members questioned whether restoration leaders knew what they were doing at the N.E. 116th restoration site. The volunteers were instructed to plant evergreens in loose soil at water level.
With subsequent rains, the plants are in standing water, and the question is whether they will survive. (A bigger question, not mentioned, is that waterlogged roots pull out and the trees fall and are swept away in floods.
The trees can be caught by the large root wads and logs to be anchored in the channel, and form debris jams that contribute to overbank flooding. Or, as happened at Bear Creek along Avondale, they can fall the other way and kill a passerby.)
Because of the sewer line and the recreation trail on the east side of the river, most restoration will be focused on the west side.
However, that's where King County back in the 70s bought right-of-way for relieving the overcrowded eastside trail, with horses to be relegated to the west side and bikers to the east side, with pedestrians on both sides and a crossing bridge where the Tolt Pipe Line trail crosses at about Northeast 150th Street.
Since responsible scientists have stated that this year's record fish returns to the Pacific Northwest are due to fish harvest restrictions and favorable ocean conditions, not to dam removals and freshwater habitat restorations, the question for taxpayers is: Do we want to spend scarce public dollars on back-to-naturing the Sammamish River, or pay for more recreation for a population suffering from a shortage of active recreation areas?
Maxing Keesling, Woodinville