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


• 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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