In early May, The Seattle Times printed an excellent series of articles on how our development choices, our checkerboard...
In early May, The Seattle Times printed an excellent series of articles [“Failing our Sound”] on how our development choices, our checkerboard of regulations and a general lack of government enforcement are undermining attempts to restore the health of Puget Sound.
No single project more clearly illustrates the folly of spending billions of dollars to restore the Sound even as we allow new damage to our shorelines and aquifers as the massive proposed gravel mine and dock facility on Maury Island.
Kathy Fletcher of People for Puget Sound made the same observation during a videotaped panel discussion posted on The Seattle Times Web site. “We cannot say we are for Puget Sound and then turn around and build a huge gravel dock at Maury Island,” Fletcher stated. “We have to have the guts to say ‘No.’ “
Recently, another major negative impact of the proposal by multinational mining giant Taiheiyo Cement (through subsidiary Glacier Northwest) has come to light. A three-story-high mound of contaminated soil covering some 15 acres will be built on the property. This pile of tainted dirt will be located atop the aquifer that provides drinking water for more than 1,100 island residents and on a geological fault that could shift in an earthquake and breach the liner that isolates the contaminated soil.
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The regulatory battle revolves around a land-use-code definition. The multinational claims the dirt pile is a “containment facility,” rather than a “landfill.” In 2004, the Metropolitan King County Council passed a law prohibiting landfills in areas where wells are the only source of drinking water. To company officials, this is an argument over semantics; to neighbors of the proposed mine, it’s a matter of their family safety and quality of life.
The stories in The Times series demonstrate how Puget Sound is under siege from ill-advised projects both large and small. Beach bulkheads can harm shallow-water environments, but a loophole in state law grants individual property owners the right to build them anyway (“Beaches suffer as walls go up,” May 13).
A Snohomish County program allowing the Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs) has stalled because it is too easy to develop farmland (“Paying landowners to protect Puget Sound,” May 14).
And, artificial wetlands constructed to replace natural wetlands destroyed by development aren’t properly monitored or enforced — and often simply don’t work. Yet, permits are still routinely issued to fill wetlands and replacement wetlands are still allowed as mitigation (“Saving wetlands: A broken promise,” May 15).
Construction conditions and mitigation plans cannot protect the Puget Sound shoreline from the negative effects of cutting down acres of trees, digging up tons of contaminated soil, and constructing a massive barge-loading facility in a sensitive tideland environment.
I salute the people of Vashon and Maury islands and our state legislators for carrying on the fight against the Maury Island strip mine. If we are to save Puget Sound, we must first stop destroying it.
Metropolitan King County Councilmember Dow Constantine represents District 8, which includes Vashon and Maury islands.