Department of Ecology fines DOT for SR 900 roadwork

May 4, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 3:17 p.m. May 4, 2010

State Department of Transportation officials failed to take steps to protect water quality during roadwork to widen state Route 900 in Issaquah, the state Department of Ecology announced Tuesday as the agency fined the DOT $11,000.

Transportation crews failed to maintain silt fencing along the mile-long project. The fabric silt fence traps mud, but allows water to pass through. Rules require the bottom of the fence to be anchored in the soil, but Department of Ecology inspectors found loose edges last September and again in February.

The project included work near Tibbetts Creek and tributary streams — habitat for several salmon species and steelhead trout. Silt damages fish gills, settles into stream gravel and damages habitat.

A Department of Ecology permit regulates storm water discharge for construction projects. The department requires regular inspections and maintenance to prevent polluted runoff.

“Protective measures, like silt fences, only work if they are properly maintained,” Kevin Fitzpatrick, a regional water quality supervisor for the Department of Ecology, said in a statement. “We’re issuing this fine to reinforce with WSDOT that regular inspection and repair of storm water controls is basic to all construction and can never be overlooked.”

Transportation officials could appeal the penalty to the Department of Ecology or to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.

“WSDOT takes water quality seriously and we make every effort to routinely repair and secure our silt fencing,” Lorena Eng, DOT regional administrator, said in the release. “WSDOT believes that there was no harm to the environment or nearby sensitive areas as a result of the maintenance.”

The fine comes as crews near completion of the yearslong, $33.9 million effort to widen state Route 900 and improve access for bicyclists and pedestrians through the corridor.

Officials opened two new lanes on almost a mile of the road between Southeast 82nd Street and Newport Way Northwest on April 14.

Crews widened the road from Newport Way Northwest to the vicinity of Northwest Talus Drive and Southeast 82nd Street. Narrow shoulders bracketed the old, single-lane roadway. Workers added a lane in each direction and a left-turn lane in the center of the roadway, as well as a bike lane and a raised sidewalk on the west side of the road.

Crews also installed a synchronized signal system to help smooth traffic for the 16,000 or so drivers who use the road every day. Workers replaced the culverts at Clay Pit Creek and the west fork of Tibbetts Creek as well.

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