News

Council approves water program

SEATTLE — Although members of the Metropolitan King


County Council voted last year to extend the surface water management service


to eastern King County, the project didn't get the final go-ahead until Sept.


25, with a recommendation that $500,000 be spent as soon as possible on


the most pressing drainage problems.


At the same time, the council approved funds that would help


purchase flood-prone homes along the Snoqualmie River.


Council members voted 7-3 in favor of the surface water


management program. According to county officials, $3.5 million will be used to


fix flooding and drainage problems in rural King County and


Vashon-Maury Island. The vote killed a competing proposal before the council,


which called for a repeal of extending the surface water management


program into rural areas. The program was started in urban King County in 1986.


The delay in the council's vote stemmed from concerns about


fees paid by property owners and how the money would be spent.


Councilwoman, Louise Miller, has said over the intervening months that more


residents began supporting the measure after learning of its benefits.


Miller chaired the Regional Water Quality Committee, which


was formed because of concerns expressed about the proposal. That


committee, as well as others, made recommendations to the County Council about


the surface water management measure. Recommendations made by the


Regional Water Quality Committee included:


• Retain the expanded service area for the surface water management


program.


• Increase the funding ratio of capital projects to operating expenditures.


• Evaluate the fee structure to offer additional discounts to


property owners who use the best management practices and who participate in


pilot projects.


"We are putting more money on the ground for projects," Miller


said in a statement. "This will help farmers keep farming and even put


more land into production."


Some property owners had objected to paying a fee for the


program, but Miller said it is money well spent.


"These are storm-water projects that help protect people and


livestock," she said. "The fees that fund this


program will provide assistance and the money for long-sought


improvement projects, and provide grant funding


for rural community partnership projects."


County officials said that since 1992, more than 850 drainage


complaints have been lodged by property owners, but the county was unable


to do anything because it lacked money. With the surface water


management program, they said, county engineers can begin looking for ways to fix


existing problems.


Councilman Larry Phillips, chairman of the Natural Resources,


Parks and Open Space Committee, said, "Preserving our environment for


future generations is probably the single largest obligation we have to our


children and grandchildren. Protecting the region's streams, rivers and lakes


from polluted runoff will help keep our waters clean today, and save


millions of dollars in cleanup costs in the future."


In other business, the County Council approved a $5.9


million spending plan to control flooding and improve drainage in


unincorporated areas. Of this, about $3.8 million


will go to projects in urban areas. In all, more than 40 projects will be


funded through the spending plan.


The $3.8 million will be supplemented with another $1.97 million


in state and federal grants. Projects using grant money include;


buying homes along the Snoqualmie River floodplain, purchasing habitat


near Cedar River and Bear Creek and improving fish passage in


Maplewood Creek, east of Renton.

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