County buys into Hylebos project



King County’s 2003 budget includes $350,000 for projects to improve the environmental health of the Hylebos watershed.

The Metropolitan King County Council approved the budget Monday. The council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee had earlier recommended the Hylebos funding with an 11-1 vote.

Officials said the council’s action should help continue progress in making the wetlands salmon-friendly.

Chris Carrel, executive director of Friends of the Hylebos Wetlands, said the county's support is “a key reason we are making significant headway in restoring our local wild salmon."

The new funding includes:

• $90,000 for watershed planning and coordination to acquire 150 acres of habitat, negotiate conservation easements, and for the State Route 167 riparian/wetland restoration effort.

• $70,000 for the Hylebos Stream Team to conduct as many as four salmon habitat restoration projects, monthly water quality monitoring (eight sites), the fall salmon watcher program, public education and outreach, and watershed environmental education for second-grade classrooms.

• $190,000 to help acquire 78 acres of salmon habitat (primarily between South 356th Street and Pacific Highway South) and develop its use in conjunction with West Hylebos Wetlands State Park.

Hylebos Creek once was a highly productive salmon stream, hosting annual runs of thousands of coho and chum salmon and hundreds of Chinook salmon and cutthroat trout. As the area around it developed, asphalt and other impervious surfaces replaced the watershed's natural drainage, causing pollutants to reach the stream and alter key habitat for spawning and juvenile fish. In addition, the amount of water in the creek dwindled.

Over the past three years, volunteer efforts have resulted in stream water quality monitoring, salmon spawning surveys and habitat restoration projects. The latter improved more than 1,500 feet of stream habitat and an acre of wetlands.

Future goals include establishing a 600-acre, 10-mile-long corridor of protected habitat from the West Hylebos wetlands to Commencement Bay in Tacoma, preserving more than 150 acres of stream habitat for Hylebos Creek salmon, stream and wetland restoration at six sites in the next two years, and replacing and expanding the state park’s boardwalk.

"Saving Hylebos Creek and its salmon runs has been a labor of love by hundreds of community members," said Councilman Pete von Reichbauer, whose district includes Federal Way and other areas that are affected by and have an impact on the Hylebos. "The reward now is seeing fish for the first time in many years."

The Hylebos support is part of $1.2 million in Conservation Futures Funds that the council approved Monday for use toward public acquisition of six pieces of property around the county for salmon habitat. The other locations are on Maury island, near the Ballard Locks, next to the Duwamish waterway, the south fork of Hamm Creek, and Richmond Beach Saltwater Park, which is scheduled for expansion.

For Hamm Creek, which flows into the Duwamish-Green River, $150,000 is earmarked for purchasing two sections of a ravine. Previous efforts to improve the salmon habitat include the installation of new culverts for salmon to cross beneath Pacific Highway South and Des Moines Memorial Drive.

Editor Pat Jenkins can be reached at 925-5565 and

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