Cecil Neisinger walked around the perimeter of his Meadowbrook home and stopped in the shade of a tree.
A few feet away, the north and south branches of Thornton Creek join before spilling into the Meadowbrook pond. His daughter caught her first fish there, where the creek frames two sides of his lot.
Neisinger, 90, has seen the neighborhood evolve over the past 63 years. By the winter, the 18-mile-long creek, the longest in Seattle, will be redirected to meander through a 2-acre flood plain about 40 feet from his home.
The city’s $7.3 million project will remove an undersized culvert next to the Meadowbrook Community Center and allow more room for the creek to flow underneath 35th Avenue Northeast.
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The neighborhood has been prone to flooding. In 2008, a storm flooded Neisinger’s neighbor’s home. The city bought the house along with three behind it, on land Neisinger used to own, for the creek restoration.
“We’ve had water all the way around the house, but never in the house,” said Neisinger, a former superintendent of utilities for the city of Duvall.
Beginning Monday, 35th Avenue Northeast — the main artery for local traffic in the neighborhood that includes three nearby schools — will close between 110th Street and 105th Street for six months. Traffic will be detoured to Lake City Way Northeast via Northeast 110th Street and Northeast 95th Street.
Alternative routes also are in place for buses. Southbound Metro routes 64 and 65 will be detoured to Lake City Way Northeast. Northbound Metro buses will use Sandpoint Way Northeast.
Aside from reducing flood damage, the project has environmental benefits. Thirty percent of the city’s salmon utilize Thornton Creek to spawn, said project manager Jason Sharpley. A meandering creek with a slower flow and wooden debris is ideal to grow the salmon population.
“It’ll look more natural,” Sharpley added.
The project, which began May 14, is one of a series of initiatives to restore the creek. Other culvert projects are at Northeast 93rd Street and at the Knickerbocker Floodplain.
The city met with the Thornton Creek Alliance, a local nonprofit, to seek the group’s blessing.
“It’s one of the most important projects I think could be done to improve the overall ecological creek system,” said John Lombard, an environmental-policy consultant and past president of Thornton Creek Alliance. “We’ve been wanting to see it happen for a long time.”
Colleen Wright: 206-464-2240 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @Colleen_Wright