Darigold pleads guilty in Issaquah Creek spill case

June 15, 2011

NEW — 4 p.m. June 15, 2011

Darigold pleaded guilty Wednesday to violating the Clean Water Act for a fish-killing ammonia spill into Issaquah Creek.

Under terms of the plea agreement, Darigold plans to work alongside the federal government to develop a corporate environmental compliance plan as part of the sentence. Including the downtown Issaquah processing facility, Seattle-based Darigold operates 13 processing facilities in five states.

The company must also pay a $10,000 fine and pay $60,000 to protect and restore natural resources in the Issaquah Creek watershed. Darigold also agreed to publicly apologize for the criminal conduct by publishing a statement in The Issaquah Press.

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Prosecutors file charges against Darigold for Issaquah spill

June 15, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. June 15, 2011

Federal prosecutors filed misdemeanor charges against Darigold on Tuesday for a fish-killing ammonia spill into Issaquah Creek.

Prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle contend Darigold violated the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act because the October 2009 spill impacted Puget Sound chinook salmon, a species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The spill occurred during maintenance and repair to the refrigeration system at the downtown Issaquah dairy. State investigators said a crew draining part of the refrigeration system allowed a toxic ammonia solution to flow onto the roof of the creekside building and down a storm drain.

In charging documents, federal prosecutors said Seattle-based Darigold acted “negligently” in discharging the pollutant.

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Press Editorial

May 10, 2011

Local History Month should mean something

May is Local History Month in Issaquah, as proclaimed by the mayor.

The month will come and go without many residents taking note, but the mayor is right in helping publicize the importance of Issaquah’s history.

We are often amazed at how many people know little of the early days here in Issaquah. Snoqualmie Tribe members were among the early settlers. Farming came to town and brought us the dairy cooperative now known as Darigold. The coal mines brought prosperity and the railroad to Issaquah, and our historic depot reminds of that. Logging was also king as hikers on our mountain trails are aware.

The town began in the Front Street and Sunset Way area, still the heart of the historic downtown. The Issaquah History Museums keeps an office in the original Gilman Town Hall. Out back is an early cement block jail. Pictures and mementos inside tell the story of a town with its mud streets and wooden sidewalks becoming the prosperous center of commerce along the interstate that it is today.

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Native kokanee fry released in historic ceremony

April 19, 2011

Seventy-five kokanee fry swam in a small camping cooler by Laughing Jacobs Creek, unaware they were surrounded by federal, state, county and city administrators, as well as concerned citizens — all people intent on helping the native salmon survive in the wild.

The Issaquah Salmon Hatchery teamed up with the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group and dignitaries from the city all the way to the federal level for the second annual kokanee fry release at Hans Jensen Park on April 18.

Last year, the group released the kokanee at Ebright Creek in Sammamish, and next year the release will be celebrated at Lewis Creek in Issaquah.

Jessica Leguizamon, 10, watches kokanee salmon fry swim away from her Dixie cup into Laughing Jacobs Creek as her sister Sabrina, 5, waits her turn and their grandfather, Gary Smith, looks on. County environmental scientist Hans Berge makes sure the release is done properly. By Greg Farrar

“This fry release is a critical part of our kokanee recovery and restoration efforts,” David St. John, Department of Natural Resources government relations administrator, said.

He outlined the group’s goals: preventing kokanee extinction and restoring a diverse and native habitat for the salmon.

“In our last run there was probably 100 fish, so we’re at low numbers, extremely low numbers,” St. John said.

A normal run for kokanee usually extends into the hundreds or thousands, he said in a later phone interview.

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Off the Press

February 8, 2011

Greg Farrar Press photographer

A recent photo assignment for our Issaquah Living magazine coming in next week’s Press has shed some insight into what can only be described as our little local miracle, Issaquah Creek.

We all have seen the creek as it moves past the hatchery, or under the vehicle bridges on Gilman Boulevard, Newport Way or Front Street. We definitely get a good look when it floods. But that leaves more than 99 percent of the creek unseen by most people as it comes down from Tiger Mountain and north through the valley.

I’ve been wading knee-deep in water, pushing through hummocks of blackberry vines, hiking and climbing down hillsides of forest to find the headwaters, trickles, waterfalls, and brooks that give birth to our creek.

There are four main branches — Holder Creek, which starts on the southeast slope of Tiger Mountain; Carey Creek, which begins in Hobart and comes together with Holder Creek at the Bonomi Farm by Highway 18 to create Issaquah Creek; Fifteenmile Creek, which starts on Tiger’s southwest slope and meets Issaquah Creek at Southeast May Valley Road; and the East Fork, which starts at High Point and joins Issaquah Creek west of Darigold.

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Department of Ecology turns to Twitter to alert residents to hazards

December 28, 2010

NEW — 6 a.m. Dec. 28, 2010

Evergreen State residents can turn to Twitter for up-to-date information about oil and hazardous material spills.

The state Department of Ecology has enlisted the micro-blogging service to disseminate accurate, credible and timely information to the media and public about spill response, preparedness and prevention issues and activities including.

The effort also includes a spill-specific website, a presence on Facebook and the agency’s EcoConnect blog.

“In the past year alone, Ecology responded to more than 3,600 reported spills and conducted about 1,200 field responses,” Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program Manager Dale Jensen said. “The breadth of what we do to protect our environment, our economy and our cultural resources is immense.”

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Architect offers bold plan for creekside parks

November 30, 2010

The proposed design for a downtown parks site includes a horseshoe-shaped bridge across Issaquah Creek and meandering trails. The Berger Partnership

Initial proposal emphasizes ecology and history at downtown site

Ideas abound for the downtown parks along Issaquah Creek: boulders for climbing, meandering paths, community gardens, historic farmhouses repurposed as meeting spaces and — the centerpiece — a horseshoe-shaped pedestrian bridge across the creek at the main stem and the East Fork.

The ambitious plan aims to transform the oft-overlooked, 15.5-acre site near Darigold into a destination. Seattle landscape architect Guy Michaelsen said the intent is to create a park site “unique to Issaquah and a reflection of Issaquah.”

The site — often referred to as the “crown jewel” in the municipal parks system — encompasses Tollë Anderson, Cybil-Madeline and Issaquah Creek parks. The effort is the largest parks project since the city built Squak Valley Park South in 2008 and the most ambitious plan since the city laid the groundwork for Tibbetts Valley Park more than 20 years ago.

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Darigold fined $10,000 for 2009 ammonia spill

October 26, 2010

The state Department of Ecology has imposed a $10,000 fine on Darigold for a 2009 ammonia spill into Issaquah Creek.

The state announced the fine — the maximum penalty under state law — a little more than a year after the spill killed salmon and other fish in the midst of salmon-spawning season. Darigold has 30 days from the Oct. 19 announcement to appeal the penalty to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.

The spill occurred Oct. 7, 2009, during maintenance and repair to the refrigeration system at the downtown Issaquah dairy. State investigators said a crew draining part of the refrigeration system allowed a toxic ammonia solution to flow onto the roof of the creekside building and down a storm drain.

Under state law, the Department of Ecology had until October 2011 to issue a penalty against Seattle-based Darigold. The state agency conducted a follow-up investigation to determine how the spill had originated. Then, investigators sent the findings to the state Attorney General’s Office for review.

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State fines Darigold for Issaquah Creek ammonia spill

October 19, 2010

NEW — 11:50 a.m. Oct. 19, 2010

The state Department of Ecology has fined Darigold Inc. $10,000 for a 2009 ammonia spill into Issaquah Creek, the agency announced Tuesday morning.

The spill caused a fish kill during a salmon-spawning run. The fine is the maximum state penalty authorized per day under state law. Darigold can appeal the penalty to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.

“Darigold cooperated in the response and investigation, and we appreciate that,” Kevin Fitzpatrick, Department of Ecology regional water quality program supervisor, said in a statement. “However, the company has an obligation under its water quality permit to exercise care at every step of its maintenance operations to prevent the release of toxic substances.”

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Press Editorial

September 7, 2010

Get acquainted with new city parks

Issaquah has a new park, and it’s a beauty!

Actually, it’s three parks — Cybil-Madeline, Tollë Anderson and Issaquah Creek parks, located behind the Darigold plant on Rainier Boulevard. The three adjacent properties were acquired over the past 20 years, but until the city cut the weeds and tall grasses in recent weeks, residents couldn’t really see what a treasure they own.

First noted are the wide-open spaces, the kind that make you want to twirl in the sun or fly a kite, or spread a blanket and read a good book. But there are also towering evergreens, like the ones surrounding the beautiful white pine. There are fruit trees from a former orchard, and a stand of birches and other select, mature nursery picks. It’s worth visiting now, but will be even more glorious when the trees show their fall colors. Read more

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