Issaquah, Tibbetts water quality is good, but concerns remain

August 23, 2011

Michael Friel, 10, brushes dirt off a curb, as his dad Mike (left), Molly Caskey and her son Ian, 10, glue the back of a Puget Sound Starts Here tile to glue next to a storm drain in the Issaquah Highlands. By Greg Farrar

The creeks crisscrossing Issaquah remain in good condition, despite increased construction nearby, a population boom in the surrounding watershed and, alongside both developments, more potential for pollution.

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Planners propose 11 projects to restore chinook, kokanee habitat

August 23, 2011

On the East Fork of Issaquah Creek at Third Avenue Northeast and Northeast Creek Way, plans call for the rockery bank wall to be removed and a log weir to be created. By Greg Farrar

Creeks leading to Lake Sammamish could serve as staging areas in the years ahead for a bold plan to restore salmon habitat.

The regional Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group has proposed 11 projects in Issaquah and Sammamish to restore habitat for chinook salmon — a species protected under the Endangered Species Act — and dwindling Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon.

The once-abundant kokanee has declined in recent decades, perhaps due to construction near creeks, increased predators, disease or changes in water quality. Scientists estimated the total 2010 run at 58 fish, including the 40 kokanee spawned at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery in a last-ditch effort to save the species.

The proposed projects range from colossal — such as rerouting Laughing Jacobs Creek through Lake Sammamish State Park — to small — adding plants in the Lewis Creek delta, for instance.

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Evergreen State is prime turf for skin cancer

August 16, 2011

With cloud cover not only being common, but seemingly the norm around Puget Sound, many locals may not be overly worried about exposure to the sun and the possibility of skin cancer such exposure can cause.

Living in one of the highest zones in the United States for rates of skin cancer, residents should keep an eye out for the development of asymmetrical moles. Thinkstock

That might be a big mistake according to area doctors and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC, the rate of new melanoma diagnoses in the state are 35 percent higher than the national average from 2001-2005. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

The occurrences of melanoma in the state was the fifth highest in the country. An estimated 1,900 state residents were diagnosed with melanoma in 2008. The two most common forms of skin cancer — basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas — are highly curable, according to Roger Muller, senior medical director for United Healthcare of Washington.

Melanomas are not. Approximately 175 people in Washington die of melanoma each year, according to the CDC. That’s the 16th highest melanoma death rate nationally and 7.4 percent higher than the national average. In a seemingly odd statistic given our local climate, Washington’s Island County is among the top 10 counties in the country for new melanoma cases striking the area at the dangerous clip of 130 percent above the national average.

“At first blush, I can see how the numbers could be surprising given that much of the year here is cloudy,” said Arlo Miller, a dermatologist with Virginia Mason Issaquah. “However, digging into melanoma risk factors … it actually makes a lot of sense.”

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State seeks adults to aid conservation projects

August 16, 2011

The state Department of Ecology needs 245 people between the ages of 18 and 25 to plant native shrubs and trees, restore salmon-bearing streams, respond to emergencies and more.

The agency is seeking applicants to the Washington Conservation Corps, a program to put young adults, including military veterans, on the job at projects in 16 counties statewide.

For the 2011-12 service year, the Department of Ecology intends to hire 150 Washington Conservation Corps AmeriCorps members using a $2 million AmeriCorps grant from the state Commission for National and Community Service.

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Washington Conservation Corps seeks members

August 15, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. Aug. 15, 2011

The state Department of Ecology needs 245 people between 18 and 25 to plant native shrubs and trees, restore salmon-bearing streams, respond to emergencies and more.

The agency is seeking applicants to the Washington Conservation Corps, a program to put young adults, including military veterans, on the job at projects in 16 counties statewide.

For the 2011-12 service year, the Department of Ecology intends to hire 150 Washington Conservation Corps AmeriCorps members using a $2 million AmeriCorps grant from the state Commission for National and Community Service.

AmeriCorps Education Awards received through the Corps Network, a national service partner, support the remaining positions.

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Mountains to Sound Greenway comes of age

July 26, 2011

Leaders nurture Interstate 90 greenbelt, acre by acre, year by year

Ken Konigsmark (left), a longtime Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust board member, and founding president Jim Ellis stand near North Bend on Rattlesnake Mountain in 2000 . By Greg Farrar

Like the matter-of-fact name suggests, the Mountains to Sound Greenway starts amid the souvenir shops and seafood restaurants at the Seattle waterfront, unfurls along Interstate 90, encompassing cities and forests, and continues on, across the Cascades.

Issaquah, situated on the route, is not quite at the center, but the city is central in the long effort to create a greenbelt along the major roadway.

The idea for a conservation corridor along the interstate germinated in Issaquah more than 20 years ago. Issaquah Alps Trails Club members spearheaded a 1990 march from Snoqualmie Pass to Puget Sound to attract attention to the proposed greenbelt — a sort of Central Park for Western Washington.

The disparate citizen, conservation, corporate and government interests behind the proposal coalesced to form the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust in 1991. Supporters marched from Ellensburg to Seattle in early July to celebrate the 20-year milestone.

“The original vision was, what can we agree on to preserve what’s important to everyone along this corridor?” retired Issaquah City Administrator Leon Kos said.

The corridor stretches for 100 miles, connects 1.4 million acres — or a landmass about 15 times larger than Seattle — and includes more than 800,000 acres in public ownership.

The conservation is enmeshed in cooperation.

The organization is built to foster dialogue among divergent groups. Seattle civic leader Jim Ellis, founding president of the greenway trust, called on rivals to sit down at the same table to create the conservation corridor. So, representatives on the 58-member board include the Sierra Club and Weyerhaeuser Co.

Kos, a longtime greenway supporter and board member, said the Issaquah Alps Trail Club assumed a fundamental role early on.

“The community group that was really very instrumental was the Issaquah Alps Trails Club,” he said.

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Help mark Issaquah Highlands storm drains

July 26, 2011

Fact: More than 8,000 storm drains flow into area creeks and Lake Sammamish. Then, local waterways drain into Puget Sound.

Join volunteers to install the “Puget Sound Starts Here” markers at Issaquah Highlands storm drains from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 30. Meet at Blakely Hall, 2550 N.E. Park Drive, for a brief introduction about the watershed.

Contact Laura Matter at 206-633-0451, ext 110, or to sign up or learn more.

Officials estimate about 75 percent of pollution in Puget Sound comes from storm water runoff. The runoff comes from water passing over roads, sidewalks, driveways and yards — picking up oil, grease, metals, soaps and yard chemicals along the way.

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20 reasons to ♥ Issaquah

July 2, 2011

The spectacular landscape is a reason to love Issaquah. By Connor Lee

Discover 20 reasons to love Issaquah, from the highest Tiger Mountain peak to the Lake Sammamish shoreline, and much more in between. The community includes icons and traits not found anywhere else, all in a postcard-perfect setting. The unique qualities — Issa-qualities? — start at the city’s name and extend into every nook and neighborhood. (The lineup is not arranged in a particular order, because ranking the city’s pre-eminent qualities seems so unfair.)

Salmon Days

The annual salmon-centric celebration is stitched into the city’s fabric. Salmon Days serves as a last hurrah before autumn, a touchstone for old-timers and a magnet for tourists. The street fair consistently ranks among the top destinations in the Evergreen State and, for a time last year, as the best festival on earth — in the $250,000-to-$749,000 budget category, anyway.

Issaquah Alps

The majestic title for the forested peaks surrounding the city, the Issaquah Alps, is a catchall term for Cougar, Squak and Tiger mountains. (Credit the late mountaineer and conservationist Harvey Manning for the sobriquet.) The setting is a playground for outdoors enthusiasts. Trails — some official and others less so — for hikers, bikers and equestrians crisscross the mountains, like haphazard tic-tac-toe patterns.

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Concerts on the Green covers the classics

June 28, 2011

The ever-popular Concerts on the Green Series will kick-off on Tuesday, July 5, at the Issaquah Community Center with the Paul McCartney and Wings tribute band Wings N Things.

Various bands will perform free concerts on the community center lawn Tuesdays from 7-8:30 p.m. through Aug. 30.

The series is presented by Issaquah Parks & Recreation and the Issaquah Arts Commission, in collaboration with the Kiwanis Club of Issaquah.

While the event is typically a nine-concert series, this year’s schedule includes a special Friday evening performance to celebrate the Mountains to Sound Greenway’s 20th anniversary. The greenway trust is devoted to conserving 1.5 million acres of land surrounding Interstate 90, from the Cascade Range to the Puget Sound.

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Saltwater fishing for cutthroat trout

June 21, 2011

Most of my cutthroat trout fishing has been in fresh water, so when it was announced that Dan Lemaich, a salty staff member of our local Creekside Angling fly fishing shop, would give a talk about salt water cutthroat trout angling at a Bellevue-Issaquah Trout Unlimited meeting, I marked it on my calendar.

Dallas Cross

Coastal cutthroat trout are somewhat bipolar. Some of them spend their entire lives in fresh water while their siblings mysteriously opt to grow up in fresh water, go to sea and then feed in both fresh and salt water. They all return to spawn in shallow streams. Sea-run cutthroat trout are quite specific to the Northwest Pacific region, from Alaska to Northern California, but are especially abundant in Puget Sound.

For a long time, not much attention was paid to cutthroat trout, and they were below the radar for fish census or management by Washington state fishery officials. In some areas, the cutthroat were mistaken for small steelhead and called “half-pounders” by fishermen. When salmon returns became anemic, more attention was paid and salt-water cutthroat were increasingly sought by sport fishermen.

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