Residents defend Lewis Creek work, now seeking permits

February 16, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

George Herold stands on the bank of Lewis Creek at the Southeast 43rd Place neighborhood bridge, as fellow neighbors Laurie Bateman (left) and Paul Burton stand on the bridge deck above.By Greg Farrar

George Herold stands on the bank of Lewis Creek at the Southeast 43rd Place neighborhood bridge, as fellow neighbors Laurie Bateman (left) and Paul Burton stand on the bridge deck above.By Greg Farrar

By the time the floodwaters of Lewis Creek had receded last month, nearly 12 feet of its bank had eroded away in the 18400 block of Southeast 43rd Place.

That portion of bank holds up the only bridge that provides five families living there access to their homes.

The residents said they placed six native boulders along the creek’s remaining bank to help keep the bridge from falling Jan. 24.

“We thought we were able to make emergency improvements,” resident Laurie Bateman said. “We didn’t go out of our way to do something tricky.”

“We thought that was better than allowing the bridge to fall into the river,” said George Herold, another resident.

A downstream neighbor said he noticed the sediment in the creek that day and went to see what was happening. Concerned for endangered kokanee salmon, he called police.When officers arrived, they stopped the work.

The residents are now working with the state to acquire the proper permits, said resident Paul Burton, and they’re in the process of hiring an engineer.

“They will conduct two reports — one on the current condition of the bridge, and second, on what long-term projects or solutions might work,” he said.

The neighbors said they are also working with King County officials and are still trying to set up an in-person meeting with city officials.

“We moved here because we love our environment and the beauty we share in the Pacific Northwest,” Jeffrey Mohn, a resident, wrote in a letter to The Press. “As a 21-year property owner and 25-year resident of Issaquah, I can assure you that all work will be done very carefully and in a fish-friendly manner.”

Residents believed they were allowed to make emergency improvements due to a recently passed House Bill, Mohn wrote.

“We understood the HB to suggest that under imminent danger, an owner is allowed to make necessary repairs to damaged real property and subsequently approach the Department of Fisheries for the prescribed permit described in HB 2525,” he wrote.

Later, the group discovered they needed to apply for the permit prior to the work being done.

“We made a misstep,” Burton said. “We had an emergency situation and we acted. In hindsight, we now know we should have picked up the phone and called someone.

“We have lived here for years protecting the salmon,” he added. “If we thought we were hurting the salmon, we would have let the bridge fall into the creek.”

Many of the residents said they have purposefully kept their properties wild to foster a friendly habitat for animals, planted native plant and tree species on their properties to provide shade for the salmon and shore up the bank, and have allowed Sunset Elementary School students to release their salmon fry on their properties each year.

Burton said the process for permits thus far has proved difficult.

Because their neighborhood was only recently annexed into Issaquah, the stream is protected by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and King County officials have helped secure the banks in the past, they said they had difficulty navigating the permit process.

In the weeks following the incident, city officials didn’t advise the residents regarding what to do next, Bateman said. When they did contact city officials, she said she was told the city couldn’t expend the resources to send out an engineer.

But as taxpayers to the city, Bateman, Herold and Burton said they, and their neighbors, have a hard time understanding why they aren’t getting any help from city officials while state officials have met with them to develop a plan.

The city’s offices were closed Monday, but information officer Autumn Monahan said in a prior interview that officials were researching the permit violations and were looking at what next steps they could take to help.

“We’re not mad at anyone,” Bateman said. “All we want is for our bridge to be in place and secure for use, and for cooperation from the city of Issaquah, King County and Fish and Wildlife to help us see to it that it is secure.”

Know the law

Call the city’s Public Works Department at 837-3400 to know what permits you might need before beginning your next project.

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.
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