King County Council protects Issaquah Creek habitat

May 16, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 2:15 p.m. May 16, 2011

King County Council members approved a lease agreement Monday to protect sensitive salmon habitat in the Issaquah Creek basin.

The legislation authorizes County Executive Dow Constantine to sign a 50-year lease for state Department of Natural Resources-owned land along Holder Creek.

“This is a great example of working across jurisdiction boundaries to achieve the common goals of supporting salmon recovery and protecting water quality and open space,” Councilman Larry Phillips said in a release. “This is a win-win that ensures pristine salmon habitat will continue to support a healthy watershed in the Issaquah Creek basin.”

The land is considered by the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Plan as home to some of the best remaining habitat in the Lake Washington, Cedar River and Lake Sammamish watershed. The creek basin supports chinook, coho and kokanee salmon, plus steelhead trout.

The county also singled out Issaquah Creek tributaries Carey Creek and Holder Creek tributaries as exceptional salmon habitat. The county identified the tributaries as Regionally Significant Resource Areas, due to the quality of fisheries habitat, and undeveloped character to protect the natural watershed structure and function.

Department of Natural Resources officials identified the parcel as appropriate for alternative management through the Trust Land Transfer Program, meaning the land can be transferred or leased to other public entities — such as local governments — in a better position to manage the lands for appropriate public purposes, such as fisheries protection or open space.

The parcel has been part of the Department of Natural Resources’ Common School Trust program. The requirement specify for the parcel’s resources be managed to generate returns to fund public school construction.

The state is also required to achieve a fair market return from the property and proposes to meet that requirement through a $337,000 legislative appropriation. The money is to be directed to the school construction fund.

King County does not have to pay any costs to obtain the long-term lease. The county is able to use the property for fish and wildlife habitat, open space or recreation, or any combination.

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