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Federal Way approves Hylebos preservation program

A rabbit forages for food in the West Hylebos Wetlands Park in Federal Way. - Mirror file photo
A rabbit forages for food in the West Hylebos Wetlands Park in Federal Way.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

The Federal Way City Council unanimously approved the continuation of the Hylebos Basin Conservation Property Acquisition Program, and to also accept $300,000 in grant funding from King County for the preservation program.

Surface Water Management (SWM) division manager Will Appleton gave an extensive presentation to the council at its May 15 meeting, outlining the program’s goals, history and future.

The plans to preserve the city’s local watershed were started in 1990, when the city entered into an inter-local agreement with King County to receive grant funding from the county’s Conservation Futures Levy Fund.

In 1992, the first property purchase occurred, when the city bought the 42-acre Spring Valley property for $800,000. In 1994, the city dedicated funding through the SWM division toward the Hylebos restoration.

In 2000, according to Appleton, the council formally approved the Hylebos program. In that time, the city has purchased three properties in the Hylebos wetlands, spending a total of about $1.2 million.

Appleton noted that a significant portion of those expenditures were covered with grant funding from the aforementioned Conservation Futures Levy Fund through the county. As it sits right now, the city has approximately $1.3 million available for purchasing properties still privately owned within the Hylebos wetlands.

While some may worry about eminent domain seizures in this program, Appleton made it clear that’s not the case.

“Any of these purchases would have a willing seller and obviously a willing buyer,” Appleton said.

The city would like to purchase an additional eight properties scattered throughout the Hylebos, Appleton said, in order to provide connectivity throughout the area and strengthen the restoration process throughout Federal Way’s natural wonderland.

“When we fold this all together and look at the idea behind the conservation property acquisition program, it really is an investment, both in the present and the future. An investment that has some significant benefits,” Appleton said. “Our vision for the Hylebos corridor, if you will, is… to have anything from an extensive trail system that would connect the wetlands through the west branch (and/or) a relatively extensive trail system through the north fork.”

Appleton highlighted one of the remaining properties the city would like to purchase as part of the Hylebos program.

“In 16 acres, we have seven tributaries to the Hylebos, most of them spring-fed. The Hylebos runs through the property, there are two ponds, a total of four springs, and it has extensive wetlands and second-growth forests on it,” he said. “This particular property is one of the jewels that remains.”

The city’s surface water manager also shared the overall vision for the program, saying it’s aimed at improving the quality of life for all citizens in Federal Way.

“This program is really about quality of life in our community. The acquisition of conservation and open space properties protects and provides opportunities to restore waterway systems in a comprehensive and integrated manner,” he said. “It improves the livability of Federal Way, it supports the recovery of Puget Sound, and it provides our citizens with environmental education and stewardship opportunities that ultimately work to strengthen our community.”

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