“We all drink from the same glass of water:” Mayor Frisinger in defending plan that threatens Issaquah, Sammamish and Klahanie water supplies

That’s what she said May 6 to media and on Social Media.

““We all drink from the same glass, the citizens of Issaquah and Sammamish,” Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger said.” Press release dated May 6, 2013, on Issaquah City website.

What if that glass of water looks like this?

Issaquah’s plan to inject stormwater runoff without adequate pre-treatment proposed by the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District–threatening our drinking water aquifer that is immediately below the so-called LRIG into which the Mayor wants to inject stormwater–may not look this bad but it’s what you don’t see that will hurt you.

Fecal coliform (from bird and other animal poop), metal particles and contaminants contained in stormwater runoff from Issaquah Highlands are all in stormwater. Issaquah contends filtering it through the ground and the LRIG will be adequate. The Water District says more pre-treatment is needed. This is the crux of the battle going on between the city, the District and the Washington Department of Ecology right now. Ecology, inexplicably, is nearing approval of a Draft Permit to allow Issaquah to inject stormwater into the ground only nine feet from the District’s aquifer that serves 54,000 people mostly in Sammamish and Klahanie and including other portions of unincorporated King County and parts of Issaquah.

The Water District offered three times to co-fund a pre-treatment facility and Issaquah rejected each offer.

Frisinger says Issaquah is committed to protecting the aquifer. If this is true, you have to ask: why won’t the city work together with the Water District, which offers to co-fund a proper pre-treatment stormwater facility?

John James bows out of re-election, Huckabay to run for old seat

After quietly filing his C-1 candidacy papers with the state Public Disclosure Commission for reelection to the Sammamish City Council, John James reversed course this week and said he will not seek another term.

Kathy Huckabay, one of Sammamish’s original council members, left her seat four years ago when she decided not to seek reelection, which is the one James won, confirmed to Sammamish Comment that she will run for election to reclaim her seat.

Issaquah plan threatens Sammamish, Klahanie water supply, lake water quality

A proposal by Issaquah to inject storm water from Issaquah Highlands into an aquifer threatens the drinking water supply for most of Sammamish residents.

This is the second assault on the aquifer, which the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District relies upon. I wrote about the first one December 18, 2012. In that case, the Issaquah City Council approved a plan called Lakeside development at the Highlands that will allow a storm water injection well right above a drinking water aquifer.

I wrote at the time something seemed pretty amiss:

The Council, which ultimately approved the agreement unanimously, said it was comfortable with the safeguards and alternatives. Several said they get their drinking water from the aquifer as well and are personally motivated to protect the aquifer. (Emphasis added.)

I’m personally uneasy. Having served on Sammamish City committees and commissions for eight years, I understand the process and thinking that went into this Agreement but I’m nonetheless concerned about the affect on the aquifer.

Now, it turns out Issaquah has applied for a permit with the State Department of Ecology to resume injection of storm water into the aquifer of substantially untreated water. The problem: untreated storm water from the Issaquah Highlands has fecal coliform (ie, bird and pet poop), heavy metal contaminants and a host of other bacteria. This threatens our drinking water. The aquifer serves most of Sammamish, in addition to parts of Issaquah and all of Klahanie. (Note to Klahanie residents: You’re in the Issaquah Potential Annexation Area. Welcome to your new landlords and stewards of your environment.)

[Read more about this issue at a new Water District website devoted strictly to this.]

More alarming: Ecology is poised to grant this permit. Ecology’s pending action is a stunning turn-about from its long history of protecting water. Furthermore, Ecology has been exerting extreme pressure on the City of Sammamish to control storm water runoff into Lake Sammamish, demanding that development runoff be controlled to pre-development conditions (ie, virgin forest). This is a nearly impossible demand in an urban area. While Low Impact Development can help dramatically, it’s impossible to feasibly return to pre-development conditions. The City of Sammamish and some citizens, many represented by the Citizens for Sammamish activist group, have been arguing with the City Council for years over the new, highly restrictive regulations demanded by Ecology. Regardless, treatment and control of polluted storm water is imperative. Why in the world would Ecology be so strict with the City of Sammamish and give Issaquah a pass?

While the permit application is pending, Issaquah is diverting untreated water into the North Fork of the Issaquah River, which flows into Lake Sammamish. This water pollution can accumulate and potential affect home values of lakefront homes (who wants to live with lakefront you can’t use?). The right thing to do would have been for Issaquah to treat the water in the first place–it’s chosen not to do so.

Now Ecology is ready to permit Issaquah to inject contaminated and polluted water into the aquifer. Also keep in mind that this very same storm water injection site was shut down by Ecology in 2008 because high levels of fecal coliform were detected in monitoring wells a short distance from the District’s drinking water wells. Issaquah has been trying to restart the injection of storm water ever since. The city is tired of the Water District’s objections to protect the water supply for 54,000 customers–most of whom reside in Sammamish–so Issaquah has decided to take over the part of the District and the three prime wells inside Issaquah’s boundaries in order to shut the District up and do what it wants with the storm water–the impact to Sammamish be damned.

The Sammamish City Council and City Manager are aware of the situation but so far have not protested either to Issaquah or to Ecology. I find this to be rather perplexing, since our City Council and our City Manager represent us residents (and voters) of Sammamish.

The Sammamish City Council meets Tuesday, May 7.

Here is the Water District’s press release:

Continue reading “Issaquah plan threatens Sammamish, Klahanie water supply, lake water quality”

Sammamish should make Big Rock Park a dog park; vote in the poll

Within the last few weeks, Sammamish city officials erected a sign at what is now called Big Rock Park–fka SE 8th St. Park–saying it is not an off-leash dog park–go to Beaver Lake Park to let your dog off leash.

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The problem with this, as any dog owner knows, is that the off leash area of Beaver Lake Park is pathetically small. It’s enclosed by a chain link fence. It’s a dog prison.

Big Rock Park, on the other hand, is a doggie paradise. It’s 10 acres. It’s fenced on all four sides. The front half (or so) is wide-open field. The back half has trails and some open areas. Wetlands are seasonally wet.

Only a few blocks away is Ebright Creek Park on 212th Ave. SE, where there are trails and amenities for people wishing to walk and not be bothered by dogs. Most of Beaver Lake Park is off limits to off leash dogs. Every other park in the city is off limits to off leash dogs.

Dog owners were increasingly using Big Rock Park as an off-leash area. This park is far, far better than the puny Beaver Lake Park area, and far more convenient than driving to Marymoor Park.

I asked a city councilman why the city put the sign up. He said there was a complaint that one person had been jumped by a dog (it was unclear if this was an aggressive dog or a playful one), and that underbrush wasn’t protected from dogs.

Well, it’s not as if the latter couldn’t be accomplished. But for all the times I talk our Golden Retriever there, I’ve never seen a dog thrashing through the brush–they’ve always been on the trails.

This city has hundreds of acres of parks people can enjoy. We need a measly 10 acres for our dogs.

Since the city erected its sign banning off-leash at Big Rock Park, I have seen usage drop off. There are now few people using this park. This should tell city officials something.

Our city officials need to make Big Rock Park a dog park.

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Sammamish and “the vision thing”

In 1987, Vice President George H. W. Bush was gearing up to run for president. The Vice President was well known for mangling his syntax (like father, like son, as it turned out) and often had difficulty articulating his thoughts (as we said…).

This inability led to his famous characterization of “the vision thing.”

Sammamish has a Vision Thing problem.

First, it must be acknowledged that governments in general typically lack vision. Out of necessity, days are consumed with simply running things and fixing day-to-day problems. But Sammamish, since its inception, has had trouble with “vision.”

I’ll concede that the City has looked into the future and taken some steps on this or that. But action often becomes years in the making and vision, if it is recognized at all, often becomes inaction.

The greatest example is the Community Center. Consider:

Continue reading “Sammamish and “the vision thing””

Looking ahead to 2013 for the City of Sammamish

Here are some of the big issues I see facing Sammamish and our citizens for 2013, in no particular order except for….

  • The future of Ace Hardware. Time is running out. Ace needs a building permit by March (February would be better) if it is to have a new building ready by August, when its lease expires. Staff was directed by the City Council in December to expedite a review of issues facing development of some of the most environmentally constrained land in the city, next to the Washington Federal Bank and the Mars Hill Church on 228th. A land swap with the City is a crucial component. Procedurally, an “emergency” probably would have to be declared to speed up processes required by state and local laws, but there are still certain requirements that suggest to me that even on an expedited basis, I don’t see how it can all come together by February or March. I hope I’m wrong. The City Staff is to report back to the City Council at the first meeting in January (the 8th, I think). Let’s hope. What happens could play into the 2013 City Council race. If a positive solution isn’t found, the issue is certainly going to become a major campaign event. Four seats are up for election: Mayor Tom Odell, Deputy Mayor John James, and Members Don Gerend and John Curley. Failure to find a solution will be used against these guys, and the issue will become a major one. Success will be used by these guys.

After Ace, here are some of the other key issues I see:

  • Staying with or defecting from the Eastside Fire and Rescue (EF&R): This is going to be a Big Deal. A decision will be controversial. The outcome has the possibility of becoming a major election issue for the 2013 City Council race. There is some significant sentiment to leave EF&R because of the costs (it, along with police service, is the highest single item in our budget and it’s going up) and long-running disputes over Sammamish’s fair share of the EF&R budget. Ambitions to expand the district by other EF&R members would have the effect of neutralizing our influence on the EF&R board and place our two representatives at a disadvantage to protect our taxpayers. But, according to several City Council members and others we’ve talked to, our City Manager Ben Yacizi is adamantly opposed to the City forming its own fire department because he doesn’t want to deal with unions. The City Council, which in my long-held view, is too subservient to the City Manager, may well be out-maneuvered by him in his opposition. A committee of former City Council members appointed by the current City Council to study the issue recommended leaving EF&R. The committee included Ron Haworth, a former fire chief himself, Kathy Huckabay and Lee Fellinge. Our City Council so far has ignored this recommendation. A decision comes before the election in November. It will be interesting to see if the four Council Members whose seats are up will have the political courage to withdraw from EF&R; the time, I believe, has come to do so.

Read more: Continue reading “Looking ahead to 2013 for the City of Sammamish”