Stream protections get a boost
City Council panel endorses wider buffers
Thursday, December 8, 2005
The buffers around Seattle streams where building is forbidden would get bigger under changes approved by a City Council committee Wednesday, though not as big as environmental groups had hoped.
But a raft of concerns prompted the committee to delay until January a final vote on new rules for the city's ecologically sensitive or potentially dangerous "critical areas."
Those rules typically restrict what homeowners or developers can build near wetlands, steep slopes, flood plains, geological hazards, river corridors and wildlife habitat.
The issues prompting the council's Energy and Environmental Policy Committee to take more time with the state-mandated update include:
Whether new fish and wildlife protections would make it difficult for waterfront industries and cargo terminals to operate.

When the city should allow pesticide use on public golf courses and areas infested with invasive plants.
Why the plan doesn't identify vulnerable areas that could be inundated by tsunamis or volcano eruptions.

Whether the city should allow building on top of creeks shunted through underground pipes, removing the chance they'll see daylight again.
Tim Trohimovich, planning director for Futurewise, which advocates growth management, told city officials that given Seattle's reputation for leading the way on environmental issues, the proposal "doesn't reflect the caliber of your usual work."
Others said the tighter restrictions would make it difficult to build in the city and meet growth management goals. Some homeowners on smaller lots with critical areas could also find it more difficult to build decks, patios, garages or expansions.
The committee, of which Councilwoman Jean Godden is chairwoman, endorsed her proposal to widen development-free buffers from 50 to 75 feet around larger salmon-bearing streams and from 35 to 50 feet around smaller streams.
Under Mayor Greg Nickels' proposal, those who build or clear vegetation within a new 100-foot shoreline buffer would have to create fish and wildlife habitat elsewhere on the property. The council committee clarified that the work should be done as close to the water's edge as possible but stopped short of requiring it there, as some groups had hoped.
The provision has the Port of Seattle and many maritime industries alarmed that routine operations could now trigger environmental restoration work. They want a clearer exemption for developed, paved-over areas, such as cargo terminals.

To learn more about the "critical areas" plan, visit: