By Sally Gillie, Monitor
A citizen’s appeal to overturn the city’s finding that a wakeboard park on Lake Tye would not have significant environmental impacts will go before a city hearing examiner on Nov. 16. A public hearing will be part of that process.
Hearing Examiner Carl Cox, a Bellevue attorney, will consider the appeal by Fryelands resident Diane Elliott, who is asking the city to deny the permit for the Lake Tye cable park and work with the community to find another appropriate site. Elliott has said she is not against having a cable park in Monroe but is only objecting to the Lake Tye location.
The city issued a determination of non-significance for the park, which means the project would not require a more expensive and in-depth environmental impact statement. The firm building the cable park, H3O of Sammamish, is in the permitting process and has an application before the city for a shoreline substantial development permit and a shoreline conditional use permit.
Monroe Public Works Director Brad Feilberg, who is the city’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) official, said, “The city has made a threshold determination there is no probable significant adverse environmental impacts” for the project.
The wakeboarding area would cover about 17 acres of lake surface at the south end of Lake Tye. Plans call for one large cable circuit running between a network of six towers, and a smaller two-way cable between two towers for beginning wakeboarders. The cable system would be powered by an electric motor, allowing wakeboarders to reach speeds of 35 to 40 mph. A 2,500 square foot facility would be built to house the ticketing office, board rentals, a sports shop, restrooms and lockers.
In her appeal, Elliott said the city has not given consideration to the environmental impacts of people being pulled around the lake on 41/2-to-5 foot long wakeboards, and pointed out that the city prohibits electric motorized craft of more than 13/4 hp on Lake Tye. “People being propelled on wakeboards by motors are motorized watercraft,” the appeal stated. “The erosion impact of this must be determined or the permit should be denied since it is not in compliance with Monroe municipal codes.”
Elliott’s appeal also claims the city has not adequately addressed impacts to the wildlife habitat at Lake Tye, including the resident and migratory bird populations. Removing a portion of the water surface could make those populations more vulnerable, it is argued, and the tower and cable network is seen as a hazard for these migratory birds.
In a letter to the city from the conservation committee of the Pilchuck Audubon Society, Chairman Alan Gibbs wrote that the cable park’s “proposed system appears to form a flight hazard to the ingress and egress of water birds at the lake’s south end. When the wakeboard facility is closed or inactive, the tower-cable system continues to be a risk for avian collision.” A letter written to the city from the Trumpeter Swan Society recommends mitigation to avoid bird collisions and said it will work with H3O to have adequate line marking that would provide collision protection for waterfowl and other birds.
David Sherrard, an environmental planning consultant and the permit coordinator for H3O, said he believes the city’s determinations have been adequate and that the hearing examiner will agree, allowing H3O to continue through the permitting process.
In a response to the appeal, Sherrard, said, “The probable impacts of the proposed wake park are likely to have no more than a moderate effect on the quality of the environment.” He said that information about species that use the lake were available and considered in the determination of non-significance.
Sherrard said concerns about wildlife are important, but need to be put in perspective. “This region,” he said, “has a lot of habitat in the form of lakes, rivers and streams.” He said. “The 30-foot-high cable towers are 20 to 25 feet lower than the power lines just west of the site, and those multiple power lines are a much more significant threat to the birds.” He pointed out the wakeboard cables are not electrical.
Rob Larson, manager of the avian protection program for the Snohomish PUD, said he has record of four bird deaths resulting from collisions with power lines at the north and south end of Lake Tye since 2000. He said it’s likely there have been other deaths that have gone unreported. He said the PUD can put markers, or flight diverters, on the lines to act as a deterrent to the birds. “Doing this is a fairly large project,” he said, adding that the power lines that stretch across the north end of Lake Tye are over water and it would not be feasible to put markers on them.
Regarding erosion concerns, Sherrard said Lake Tye “is a stormwater pond on the edge of an urban area.” He said because Lake Tye is a manmade lake, “it doesn’t have the characteristics of a natural pond. Its gravel construction doesn’t erode very well with the minimum wake that is the result of wakeboarding.
The city has received a letter from the State Department of Ecology voicing concerns. The Oct. 23 letter, from Wetlands Specialist Paul Anderson, said that, based on the project documents on the city’s website, there are some aspects that have not been adequately addressed. “The lack of analysis of potential changes in wave energy from park operation is a significant omission,” he wrote. “Specific impacts of concern would be ecological degradation due to increased erosion and along the shoreline,” and further stated the wave action could stir up contaminated sediments. Anderson said Lake Tye’s designation as a stormwater management facility is another concern. “Urban stormwater is known to carry a number of contaminants.”
Elliott said, “There has never been a heavy metals study done on the ‘stormwater retention facility.’”
Hearing Examiner Cox indicated he did not want to go on record saying anything about the appeal before the hearing, but did say, “There will be a public hearing as part of the proceedings to give an opportunity for interested citizens to participate.”
The hearing examiner’s review and public hearing will be held at 9 a.m. on Nov. 16, in the city council chambers at Monroe City Hall.
Dianne Elliott is also part of another legal action involving the city of Monroe; that of the effort to force Walmart to comply more closely with city design standards for the North Kelsey area in which it is planned.
According to city economic development manager Jeff Sax last week, the appellate court will announce their winter docket soon, and then the city will know when the case will be heard, probably in January or February.
In another appeal case, last week an appellate court heard the matter of a 2011 traffic camera initiative, but the court will take up to 90 days to render a decision. The city has asked the court to overturn a Snohomish County Superior Court decision that ruled the city was at fault for not including part of an otherwise invalid citizens’ initiative on a city ballot.