North Bend development ordinances up for vote

NORTH BEND - Two ordinances that will determine both the long- and short-term prospects for growth in North Bend are set to be approved by the City Council next week.

With no immediate relief in sight, the City Council will likely vote to extend its building moratorium for another six months at its next council meeting on Sept. 20. The council is also set to consider the city's Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) one more time before passing it.

The city has been in the building moratorium since 1999 when it discovered it was drawing more water than allowed under state law. Any development that required water, therefore, couldn't be built in North Bend, and the moratorium has been reviewed and renewed ever since.

To get out of the moratorium, the city must obtain additional water rights granted by the state Department of Ecology (DOE), a move contingent on the city finding more water to pump without impacting the Snoqualmie River or other existing sources of water.

Last year, North Bend looked into a plan for getting water from the Snoqualmie River Watershed while pumping water into it from a pool in the Cedar River Watershed, which is maintained by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). The project was funded with a $500,000 grant from the DOE, and the city hoped to get out of its moratorium by the end of 2005.

The plan was contested, however, by the Tulalip Tribes, who said a "highly-infectious fish pathogen" called infectious hematopietic necrosis (IHN) was located in the Cedar River and should not be introduced into the Snoqualmie River Watershed. North Bend officials said there was no proof of any IHN in the Cedar River pool they planned on taking the water from and no evidence IHN would be introduced into the Snoqualmie River with their plan. Talks with the Tulalip Tribes did not, however, abate concern over the plan and North Bend decided to abandon the idea.

Another option being considered by the city is to recapture underground seepage water from the Cedar River pool and convey that to the Snoqualmie River. That plan, North Bend officials said, would make the IHN issue moot since the ground could act as a natural filtering mechanism.

The city is also considering tapping into SPU's Tolt River pipeline and discharging water into Deep Creek, a tributary to the Snoqualmie River. Since the Tolt and Snoqualmie rivers are tributaries of the Snohomish River and are essentially in the same basin, North Bend officials said the issue of IHN is also avoided in this option.

A problem with that plan is that the wetlands along Deep Creek may slow the water down on its way to North Bend so not enough would be replenished in a timely manner. The city would also have to purchase easements over private land. The city could bypass the wetland completely and pipe water directly from the Tolt to the Snoqualmie, but that option could cost more than $4.7 million, depending on the length of the pipeline.

City public works director Ron Garrow said the city will be working on the issue and the council should come up with an option in the coming weeks.

"We are at least a year away from pumping water," said Councilman Chris Garcia.

CAO up for vote

If and when development comes back to North Bend, it will likely be subject to the city's new CAO, which is also set to go before the council at its Sept. 20 meeting. The city's CAO is different than the county CAO, a set of development regulations that were passed last fall, but there are similarities. While the city's CAO will cover a different jurisdiction than the county's regulations (which covers the county's unincorporated areas), North Bend's CAO is based on the same premises of compliance with the state Growth Management Act (GMA).

Most of the changes will come in the form of more concise guidelines, descriptions and mapping. Fish and wildlife habitat conservation definitions will include all of the state and federal species that are endangered and have a primary association with an area, as well as habitats of local importance, such as fish-bearing streams and wetlands and streams at the preserved Tollgate Farm and Meadowbrook Farm properties.

For the wetland and stream categories, North Bend will be adopting the system for classification recommended by the state Department of Ecology, a move the county made last year. Wetlands will be categorized from I-IV, depending on the size and characteristics of the wetland. Streams will be either a C, Ns, Np, F, or S type. A type F stream (e.g. Ribary Creek, Gardiner Creek, etc.) has fish and a type S stream (e.g. Snoqualmie River) has not only fish, but salmonoids. Type Np is a steadily-flowing stream with no fish and type Ns is an intermittent stream with no fish. The lowest classification, type C, is a low-grade intermittent stream, such as a storm water conveyance.

Unlike the county, however, the buffers in the city of North Bend would not be increased under the new ordinances. The wetland buffers will not change and range from 35 feet for a light use along a category IV wetland to 200 feet for a high-intensity use near a category I wetland. Stream buffers, which currently range from 100 feet for streams with salmon (type S and F) to 25 feet for those that don't (type Ns), will also remain the same. The dimensions are also identical to those in Snoqualmie.

For both streams and wetlands, uses in the buffers will be better explained under the new ordinance. Uses will be limited to a short list of low-impact activities such as trails, storm water management projects, public roads, utilities and repairing existing structures. Some of the stream and wetland buffers will have an inner buffer where use is more restricted, and there will also be a 25-foot building setback from the edge of the stream buffers.

New homes in frequently flooded areas will be required to be raised an additional foot in the future. Presently, new homes in the city's most flood-susceptible areas must have their bases one foot above the predicted flood levels of a 100-year flood and the new regulations would have that raised to two feet. The mapping for homes in North Bend is taken from a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) map that was put into effect this spring that the city had already used for planning.

The city will continue to map water channel migration zones (CMZ), but it will not regulate development in those areas since that development is already under the watch of flood zone laws.

Most of the Valley floor, and therefore most of North Bend, is an aquifer recharge area and the new regulations specify what high-impact uses (e.g. strip mining) are restricted in the city.

Another more defined set of regulations will be the geologically hazardous areas in the city where shifting rock and soil can cause a landslide. The new maps for the city show such areas as being south of (above) the Forster Woods neighborhood and at the base of Mount Si. Development in those areas will be limited and require protective measures.

Councilman Ross Loudenback said he voted for the CAO since other communities in Washington have been sued for not having CAOs that comply with the GMA.

"I don't want the city to be open to third-party lawsuits," he said.

The next North Bend City Council meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 20, at the Mount Si Senior Center, 411 Main Ave. S., North Bend. Visit for information.

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