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Report: Sprawl threatens foothills
SEATTLE _ A report released last week by the non-profit
environmental coalition 1000 Friends of Washington ranks the foothills of the
Cascade Mountains as one of the most endangered areas in the state due to
a growing population and increased development.
The report listed the top 10 threatened areas in Washington,
from Roslyn, to Lake Whatcom, Mount Rainier National Park to the
Little Spokane River.
It is the second time 1000 Friends, which is headquartered in Seattle,
has published the report. Aaron Ostrom, executive director of 1000
Friends, said the organization spent months researching and putting the
report together. He said staffers talked to planners, activists, elected
officials and developers in gathering material for the report.
For the areas making the list, 1000 Friends looked at several
factors, including: the immediacy of the threat, the overall growth rate, the
public interest, scenic quality and opportunity for change.
In the introduction to its report, the organization says that while
progress has been made in controlling development, more work needs to
"While Washington has made great strides in curbing sprawl
since the passage of the [state Growth Management Act], some of the
state's most treasured places continue to be endangered by ill-conceived
growth," the report states.
"After 10 years of experience under GMA, it is time for a new set
of smart-growth reforms that focus infrastructure spending in
existing communities and remove loopholes that allow urban development in
Ostrom said that providing a list of the most endangered areas,
helps bring the sometimes dry debate about growth management a little closer
to home for state residents.
"This state's got serious problems with sprawl and
overdevelopment, and sometimes it helps to put a
little more personal face on it," he said.
The Cascade foothills made the list because more people are moving
to the Puget Sound region, specifically east of Seattle. According to the
report, the foothills extending through King and Snohomish counties have
added more than 300,000 residents in 10 years.
In 1990, the King County population in the Cascade
foothills was 1,507,305. In 10 years, it has increased to 1,685,600, a jump
of 11.83 percent. In Snohomish County, the increase has been even
more dramatic, rising from a population of 465,628 in 1990 to 593,500 in
2000, an increase of 27.46 percent.
"[The Cascade foothills are] bearing the brunt of
sprawl development it's heading east up into the foothills," Ostrom said.
The 1000 Friends report states, "The explosive growth of
King County's eastside is fueling the invasion of housing into the
Cascades and threatening to destroy the very qualities that attracted most of
the area's residents to the Pacific Northwest."
According to the report, the most pressing danger is large
developments and master-planned communities like the 1,342-acre Snoqualmie
"The Cascade foothills are being chopped up into 20-, 40- and 80
acre tracts that are ripe for large-lot, residential development. When
the ownership patterns within forest lands become fragmented, they have a
much higher chance of being converted to residential uses," the report says.
The report also claims that Weyerhaeuser is planning the
second phase of expansion on Snoqualmie Ridge. However, last year
Snoqualmie city officials denied Weyerhaeuser's request to expand the development
by 800 acres as part of the development's proposed Phase 2, which lies
outside the city's growth area.
"It's a very good example of what's happening in the
foothills," Ostrom said of Snoqualmie Ridge. "It's a very large development
outside the urban growth boundary."
Jodi Slavik, legal counsel for the Olympia-based Building
Industry Association of Washington, said developers are being unfairly
singled out in the report. She said the Growth Management Act is comprised
of many goals, including economic development and affordable
housing, as well as protecting the environment. But one goal shouldn't be
favored over another.
"I think the industry gets the brunt of the criticism because we are an
easy target," she said. The demand for new housing outside urban areas exists,
she added, because the cost of living in a city like Seattle is too high for
"These projects represent the local governments trying to balance
the various goals of the GMA," Slavik said.
To protect the Cascade foothills, 1000 Friends says the King
County Comprehensive Plan needs changes. The Metropolitan King
County Council is currently reviewing the plan, and is considering expanding it
to prohibit "housing development on new lots created within
lands designated for long-term forest use," the report states.
1000 Friends also suggests maintaining forest in the foothills
"by taking advantage of their money-making potential."
"Investors" would purchase tax-exempt bonds, or partner with
others, to buy forested areas. They would receive a part of the profits
from sustainable timber sales, and "the harvesting would be done
according to the strictest environmental standards, with wider buffers
around streams, conservative road building and other sustainable methods."
Ostrom said if something isn't done soon to address
development issues, not only will the state lose forested land, it will lose
something much more precious.
"It's kind of a part of the Washington heritage that you can
go out of town and check out the forests and the mountains," he said.
"To protect these places and protect our quality of life, we have
to strengthen our efforts to manage growth."
The nine other areas of the state on the list of most endangered
· Roslyn, Wash. _ threatened by a large, resort-style
development and growth along Interstate 90.
· Lake Whatcom _ threatened by polluted storm runoff
and urbanization within the watershed.
· Bellevue Transit Center _ has experienced a 136 percent
increase in ridership since 1996, but funding is threatened by Initiative 745.
· Mount Rainier National Park _ threatened by a proposed
upscale resort that would change the character of the community and displace
· Hood Canal _ threatened by soil erosion due to development
along the canal, which also destroys salmon and marine habitat.
· The Skagit Valley _ threatened by development along
the I-5 corridor, which could harm fertile farmland.
· The Little Spokane River _ threatened by shoreline
development and the demand for water by an increasing population.
· Salmon Creek _ located near the fastest growing county in the
state, Clark County. Threatened by sprawl development that threatens
water levels, water quality and salmon runs.
· Tri-Cities foothills _ traditional rural farms and ranches
are threatened by sprawl development.
To read the full report, go tothe 1000 Friends Web site