PWI initiates falls crossing wildlife survey

SNOQUALMIE _ Even though most of the remaining studies on

Falls Crossing are on hold, developer Puget Western Inc. (PWI) announced

that they have begun the wildlife habitat study that will be required if their

development plan moves forward. Other studies will not be completed until

after the planning commission reaches a final decision.

In April, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW)

officials declined to conduct the study based on a disagreement with PWI over

the developer's response to agency testimony.

The biologist hired by PWI began surveying the 180-acre site the

second week in May. The study will look for signs of habitat use by endangered

or threatened species such as the spotted owl, marbled murelet and

pileated woodpecker through the nesting season. PWI said they are also

surveying for the presence of bald eagles.

"The biologist has been trained and certified by the Washington

Department of Fish & Wildlife," PWI attorney Tom Pors told the

Valley Record. "We wanted to make sure that he would be in the field in time to

comply with proper survey protocols."

Pors explained that the methods used are the same as those

practiced by WDFW biologists. He further noted that careful consideration

went into choosing a biologist whose work is neutral and based on

best-practice methods.

"Doing the survey is responding to community concern. Puget

Western is being conservative and going the extra mile. We are being as

responsive as we can," Pors said, adding that

he has not yet seen any preliminary reports.

Although PWI is required to get the city's concurrence regarding

their choice of biologists, doing so without the planning commission

recommendation for approval would be premature.

"They're doing the study on their own," Snoqualmie Planning

Director Nancy Tucker said. "But if the

project and the conditions are approved, that is when we'll look at their consultant."

Other studies, including the Traditional Cultural Places analysis,

cannot begin until the plat stage of development when the placement of

roads and buildings can be more precisely located. The preliminary plat

stage occurs before any logging or actual building.

During a public comment period, Snoqualmie resident Pat Busby

voiced concerns about contamination of the area once used by Puget Sound

Energy as a poleyard. The site is part of the Falls Crossing property,

located north of Kimball Creek. He said that the Department of Ecology (DOE)

still lists the site as toxic.

City attorney Pat Anderson explained that DOE records show the

site was cleaned up in 1996 and that more than 900 yards of soil were

removed. The agency took no action following the report, but Anderson said the

city is seeking a "No Further Action"

letter from the DOE, which would indicate satisfactory remediation.

PWI will grant an open space easement of the poleyard site to the

city for public use. However, the uses would be limited to parking,

underground utilities and the like. City officials said the area would not be

used as park or recreation space.

Planning commission members indicated they are close to making

a recommendation and could take action at the next meeting, scheduled for

June 19. City staff will provide the commission with updated findings

and conditions.

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