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Surface water fees approved for Valley

SEATTLE _ Last Monday night, in its final meeting of the year,

the King County Council approved several proposals by County

Executive Ron Sims. Chief among those that will affect the Snoqualmie Valley

was Sims' request to extend the county's surface water management program

to several new locations, including unincorporated portions of the Valley.

The project is an outgrowth of King County's existing Surface

Water Management program, established in 1986, which is designed to

reduce the environmental impact of runoff into the area's waterways. With

approval by the council, the program will now extend coverage, technical

support, enforcement and fees into the Valley, the Enumclaw area and

Vashon and Maury Islands.

The final vote during the marathon session _ which lasted until

Tuesday morning at 1 a.m. _ was 7-6 in favor of the surface water program.

Council members Jane Hague (District 11), Rob McKenna (District 6), Pete

von Reichbauer (District 7), Kent Pullen (District 9), Christopher Vance

(District 13) and Greg Nickels (District 8) cast the opposition votes.

Outgoing District 12 councilman Brian Derdowski joined the slim majority

in voting for the implementation of the program.

Introduction of the program into the Valley will result in a $7.08

per month/$85.02 per year fee on homeowners. Commercial sites

will be charged by the acre, depending on their percentage of impervious

surfaces such as roofs, paved roads, and concrete pads. The program will

offer discounts and exemptions for senior, disabled and low-income households.

In addition, the King County Department of Natural Resources

(DNR) will establish about 13 new staff positions _ including a Rural

Drainage Coordinator _ to operate and monitor the program. According to DNR

personnel, the coordinator will serve as the region's "advocate," guiding

staff members in solving property owners' runoff problems. Conversely, the

staff will also be charged with directing corrective and enforcement activities.

The agency held a series of public meetings on the program during

November. Opponents at the North Bend meeting _ held Nov. 9 _ vocally

expressed their concerns that the groundwater runoff program constituted

yet another level of county government. They also complained about

having more fees added with little to show for it.

In response, representatives from DNR stressed both accountability

and "bang for the buck," indicating that fees raised in the Valley would in

fact be spent locally. DNR Deputy Director Kurt Triplett reiterated the

agency's position last Thursday, and talked briefly about what will come next.

"The council approved the ordnance _ which extended the

service area _ but they did not approve the accompanying appropriations

ordnance," he commented. "They held onto the actual expenditure

authority. Therefore, it's still in council and

will be looked at again around the end of January or in early February.

"I think it will be a fairly straight forward adoption. We should be

out there and providing services in late January or early February."

As to the reception his representatives received in North Bend,

Triplett said they ran into similar comments at other public hearings. He

stressed the key will remain service to the community.

"It's not so much another layer of government, but people want to see

the money spent on services in their area. There will be about $1.2 million

generated in the Snoqualmie area, so what we are trying to do is keep every

area whole, spending it (the fees) in that area.

"We are not creating a new layer of government," he concluded.

"We are creating a new level of service that will be the equivalent of the

money raised."

In other business, the council also approved Sims' request for an

increase in the county sewer rate, from $19.50 per month to $19.75. Sims

requested the increase as part of the county's long-range growth management

objectives. The fee will not go up until 2001.

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