Apr

11

The previously reported battle between the city of Bellevue versus a resident of Newport Shores and his community association came to a legal head recently when a federal judge ruled against the resident and Newport Shores / Newport Yacht Club.

At issue was whether or not Bellevue met its obligations in managing stormwater runoff and sediment issues in Coal Creek, and also whether or not the resident created improper salmon habitat enhancement, all of which was part of a prior settlement. Bellevue was found to have met its obligations and the resident was found to have not created an actual salmon habitat enhancement on their property as specified, but instead to have effectively created a small salmon hatchery for introducing new fish into the creek.

And the battle continues on: The resident has been prevented from moving into his home for a long time now; he still needs to figure out how he can legally occupy his newly built – but never lived in – home. The city plans to file for reimbursement of their attorney fees. No winners in that protracted battle!

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Apr

2

From the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance: this year’s Lake Union and Portage Bay Sweep. It’s a fun event where you can be out on the water, help pretty up the area, and have some nice camaraderie with other folks along our urban waterfront. From the organizers:

“Over 200 volunteers in kayaks, row boats and motorized craft remove 2-3 tons of trash annually from Lake Union and Portage Bay. Volunteers are treated to a picnic lunch provided by event sponsors and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance.”

The event will be held May 15th from 8:00am to 2:00pm. Contact and other info can be found at the link above.

Puget Soundkeep Alliance logo

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Mar

26

With all of the spectacular waterfront communities and views that we have in the Seattle, you’d think that there are some restaurants with great views. And you’d be right! Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway evening, or want to entertain some out of town guests by showing them what Seattle has to offer, there are many options to pick from.

We have put together a list of some of the best Seattle waterfront view restaurants. If you have any that you think should be added, let us know.

Lake Washington waterfront real estate for sale with home in Holmes Point Kirkland

Lake Washington waterfront home for sale in Holmes Point Kirkland

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Jan

24

Keep your eyes out on the Sound: there have recently been gray whale sightings a month ahead of the usual time, and the Pacific coast is reporting more whale sightings than have occurred in the past 5 years. That also bodes well for seeing some of those whales stop into Puget Sound on their winter rounds.

So keep your binoculars and spotting scopes at the ready!

Gray whale

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Dec

24

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that its new revisions to flood insurance maps had so many errors in them that they are re-drafting a new set, perhaps to come out again within six months.

This can affect any waterfront home owner – whether on Puget Sound, a lake, or river – if you want to have flood insurance. Your home may have not been in a designated flood plain, but could potentially go into one now, or even vice versa.

The issue was primarily raised by city and county officials around the country who saw some aspects of the new maps being too stringent for their development plans, and in some cases completely important topographical details were missed. So FEMA will have their contractor redo all of the maps, and they will be more involved with quality control for this second round.

Federal Emergency Management Agency logo

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Oct

31

The Puget Sound Partnership doubled its budget this year with a new large injection of $50 million in federal funding. Separately, $152 million is being received for other Sound related restoration projects. Here is a summary of some of the initiatives that the money will be used for preserving Puget Sound:

  • Determine performance measures
  • Reduce storm water pollution
  • Preserve specific habitats
  • Remove Elwha River dam
  • Build Belfair sewer system for protection of Hood Canal
  • Remove dikes to restore Nisqually estuary habitat

Puget Sound Partnership logo

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Oct

30

Some of our waterfront communities are perched at the edge of steep slopes formed long ago by grinding glaciers and since then by gradual wave and rain erosion. The result is spectacular views hovering over the water. The downside is that without proper care of your property’s drainage and storm water runoff there can potentially be a landslide in some areas.

There are many resources for waterfront bluff owners that explain how to protect their gorgeous investments, including resources I have collected together for you at my WaterHavens geotechnical resources page.

In November the Seattle Department of Planning and Development is providing two free meetings that will go over strategies for maintaining landslide-prone properties. They may be well worth your time if that applies to your property.

  • November 7th 10:00am to noon at South Seattle Community College’s Judge Warren and Nobie Chan Education Center (6000 16th Ave SW, Seattle)
  • November 21st 10:00am to noon at the Northgate Community Center (10510 Fifth Ave NE, Seattle)

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Sep

24

Want to see two immovable forces battle over riparian zone and salmon related permit issues? The Seattle Times reported about the legal battle between a Bellevue/Newport Shores attorney and the city of Bellevue over the construction of his home beside Coal Creek.

There are some interesting twists to this story, a bit different than the usual disputes over buffer zones, pervious surfaces, geotech, and such. The two opposing sides had a prior dispute 5 years ago, and are at it again. The home owner has built a nice new home beside Coal Creek and actually installed what amounts to a small salmon hatchery plus water-filtration plant with sump pumps to feed an artificial stream and holding pond! He even has a bridge over Coal Creek. The city claims he exceeded the size and location of disturbance zones around the home, plus says the mini salmon hatchery was never approved and he also did not create required flood mitigation berms. Bellevue is holding back his occupancy permit, and the home owner says he may not be able to move into his new pad for another 5 years.

Wow, what a convoluted mess there for everyone involved. Hope they get it all worked out.

The Seattle Times logo and subscription

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Sep

23

The Puget Soundkeeper Alliance is holding their “Salute to the Sound” event on Saturday September 26th at the Great Hall of Lake Union Park. From their announcement:

“Celebrate the bounty of the Sound and help us welcome keynote speaker Hedrick Smith, the Frontline correspondent of the recent Poisoned Waters series on PBS.

Join us for oysters, clams, catering by Bacchus and Arianna, Soundkeeper Organic Pale ale & other brews, local wines, live music and a Silent Auction.”

Puget Soundkeeper Alliance logo

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Apr

23

I was recently asked an interesting question: who is responsible for removing floating logs from Lake Washington? I did some digging with King County and the US Army Corps of Engineers, and this is what I found out:

The US Army Corps of Engineers is usually responsible for managing on-water safety issues, including occasional removal of floating danger logs from Lake Washington. This is part of their mission mainly because the lake is considered a navigable waterway with heavy marine traffic.

However, a “nuisance log” has many different interpretations and would not be addressed by most agencies, especially if the logs are onshore and not posing a hazard to marine traffic. What one person may not want may actually be good habitat for many creatures, and hence there would be a permitting conflict. There are actually Fish and Wildlife regulations against removing large wood from shorelines because the removal decreases refuge and food sources for fish. Officially, a hydraulic project approval would even need to be obtained from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife before such work could be done in the water. Smaller stuff is usually just handled by home owners on an individual basis.

Updated to answer reader question: I contacted the Army Corps of Engineers to get more information about what they do with the logs that they corral. They try to empty the holding pen monthly plus make a monthly round of Lake Washington as their schedule permits. The collected debris is off-loaded onto storage barges at the Ballard Locks. They dispose of usable debris to government agencies for restoration work or recycle it. The rest goes to the landfill.

Lake Washington waterfront real estate for sale covered porch view of Bellevue and Mercer Island

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Apr

13

Upcoming events from Puget Soundkeeper Alliance:

Sunday April 19th
What: Gary Manuel Aveda Institute Cut-a-Thon
Who: Schedule a hair and/or spa service for April 19th between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm and the proceeds go to Puget Soundkeeper Alliance
When: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Where: Gary Manuel Aveda Institute, (206) 329-9933
Address: 1514 10th Ave, Seattle
http://www.gmaveda.com/
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance will receive 100% of the proceeds.

Wednesday, April 22nd
What: Gary Manuel Salon Belltown and Capital Hill Earth Day Cleanup Event
Who: Calling all volunteers
When: 9:00 am – 10:30 am
Where: Belltown and Capital Hill
Call Betsy Moyer at Puget Soundkeeper Alliance if you would like to volunteer (206) 297-7002

Saturday, April 25th
What: Everett Marina and Jetty Island Cleanup Event
Who: All Volunteers welcome – bring gloves, warm clothes and appropriate footware. No reservations needed.
When: 9:00 am – 12:00 (lunch served after). Transportation to and from Jetty Island provided.
Where: Popeye’s Marine & Kayak Center
Address: 814 13th St, No. Marina (access via 14th St)
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance has been involved for 15 years. Call Chris Wilke for info (206) 297- 7002.

Saturday, April 25th
What: Premiere Salon It’s the Water Event (live music, refreshments, raffle)
Who: All are welcome
When: 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Where: Premiere Salon and Spa (360) 753-3299
Address: 111 Market St #101, Olympia
Call or email Kelly Bakala at Kelly@premieresalonandspa.com. Tickets: $10
Proceeds support Puget Soundkeeper Alliance’s clean water work.

Sunday, April 26th
What: Aveda and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance Walk for Water
Who: All are welcome. Please pledge $25 to participate
When: 9:00 am registration (10 am to 12:30 pm walk & trash pickup)
Where: Golden Gardens Park
Address: 8498 Seaview Ave N, Seattle
Call Betsy Moyer for info (206) 297-7002

Sunday, April 26th
What: 2nd Annual Community Oyster Roast
Who: Anyone who likes Oysters, sausage, beer, wine and live music
When: 2-seatings – 1) from 2:00 pm to 4:00pm and 2) from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Where: Golden Gardens Bathhouse
Address: 8498 Seaview Ave N. Seattle
http://www.pugetsoundkeeper.org/events/community-oyster-roast
Tickets available at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/54821
Annual fundraiser for Puget Soundkeeper Alliance’s work to protect and preserve Puget Sound

Saturday, May 2nd
What: Clean and Green Boating Fair, free event to kick off the boating season
Who: All are welcome – free boat tours included
When: 10:00 am to 3:00 pm
Where: Delin Docks Marina on Thea Foss Waterway
Address: 1616 E “D” St, Tacoma
http://www.cleangreenboating.blogspot.com/

Saturday, May 9th
What: The Sweep – 7th Annual Lake Union and Portage Bay Cleanup
Who: All Volunteers welcome. Please sign up first (206) 297-7002
When: Volunteers check in at 8:30 am (for most)
Where: Lake Union Park (for most)
Address: 860 Terry Ave N, Seattle
http://www.pugetsoundkeeper.org/events/7th-annual-lake-union-and-portage-bay-sweep

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Mar

26

MarineTraffic.com ship logoIf you are on Puget Sound, have you ever wondered about a large ship passing silently up the shipping channels? Perhaps wonder what country it is from, or where it is heading, or even some design specs on its size?

I have just added a new feature on WaterHavens.com that offers all of that and more: real time Puget Sound marine traffic maps and info. It shows the current location of major vessels throughout Puget Sound (and the rest of the world), tracking every ship’s location, direction, and registry information. It even includes a photo of many boats, plus a graphical track of where it has just been on its recent course plotted over time.

Pretty neat stuff. You can literally look out your window and bring up this info on WaterHavens at any time to know a lot more about any boat that is right in front of you!

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Feb

17

A waterfront home owner who lives on the Renton shores of Lake Washington was recently found guilty of constructing a dock and boat lift without permits. Apparently a neighbor complained to the US Army Corps of Engineers (they are involved in the shoreline permitting process for docks), and even after the Corps cited the home owner to stop work he still kept going. As a result, he now faces up to a year in prison plus up to a $100,000 fine! He was charged with a misdemeanor violation of the federal Rivers and Harbors Act.

US Army Corps of Engineers logo related to waterfront homes dock regulations
For information on who to contact to determine regulations on dock construction and refurbishing, check my list of Seattle area government waterfront regulatory agencies on WaterHavens.com.

So make sure you have those permits in hand, and then you can relax and fully enjoy a beauty like this Lake Washington waterfront home for sale:

Lake Washington waterfront real estate for sale in Renton, this boat dock and lift IS fully permitted

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Jan

9

If you are concerned about the possibility of rising waters in your waterfront location near a river, lake, or even the Sound, you can obtain reasonably priced flood insurance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Most private insurers neither include this in their insurance policies nor have add-on options to do so. Almost all communities with the state of Washington are eligible under the FEMA program, however.

For more information, visit Floodsmart.gov.

Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA logo

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Nov

16

The Elliott Bay Water Taxi, which travels from West Seattle across to downtown Seattle in 12 minutes, increased its ridership by 15% over the prior year. It’s a great commute alternative for people who live in the waterfront community of West Seattle and either work in downtown Seattle or can connect to other public transportation from there.

The water taxi is successful enough that year around service is set to start in 2010, and several other demonstration routes are being planned for other local Puget Sound and Lake Washington communities.

Elliott Bay Water Taxi service from West Seattle to downtown Seattle, photo from King County Metro Transit

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Oct

14

The third and final round of public input periods to the King County Shoreline Management Program is happening now. If you live on or near the Sound, a lake, river, or even some wetlands, then this can apply to you and your property.

You can review the draft and also attend upcoming public open house meetings in Carnation (October 16th) and Covington (October 23rd). Public inputs will be accepted until Friday November 14th, via the meetings, email, or mail.

This will be the final opportunity for public input before the completed program is submitted to the King County Council in December.

King County watersheds map

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Oct

5

Interesting set of recent events from the National Marine Fisheries Service: Since development near bodies of water can adversely affect salmon population – and salmon populations are important for the web of life food chain to endangered orcas – they have determined that the federal flood insurance program currently available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is illegal. Both salmon and orcas are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

National Marine Fisheries Service NMFS logo
Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA logo
This affects future development for any properties determined to be within flood plains, and it can also affect current owners seeking this type of ongoing insurance. In many cases, getting flood insurance in flood plains is difficult and expensive without having the FEMA program to rely upon. New development may be cost prohibitive and current owners may be left without viable insurance options.

For more information, see this article in the Seattle PI. The reporter covers the usual areas that people think of as a “flood plain”: areas near rivers that can crest and flood at times of heavy flow. However, the article does not talk about the many other areas that can be considered flood plains. Even Puget Sound waterfront can be considered flood plains due to tidal/storm surges, and lake shores can rise and flood as well. The frequency of both is very low in comparison to rivers, but nonetheless official classifications and flood plain maps do exist for these areas. Both future development and existing properties along many other bodies of water than rivers could definitely be affected.

Next steps will reside with FEMA to create development requirements that will be more compatible with salmon populations, and this may allow for the resumption of the FEMA flood insurance program around the Puget Sound area. However these kinds of programs and development compromises can take quite a long time to develop, so it will be interesting to track the effects from this on local waterfront properties.

If anything, it makes existing waterfront homes more valuable since development options for new waterfront properties are further restricted. Relatively few waterfront home owners (especially on the Sound and lakes) actually purchase the FEMA insurance, so the downsides of lacking the insurance will likely be negligible except for cases where such insurance may be a requirement of a buyer obtaining financing.

We’ll see what happens…

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Sep

10

Fall is coming our way, and the salmon runs are on their way as well. Are you interested to see all the activity at our local riverfront communities? Here’s the scoop from the King County Spawning Salmon Viewing Locations:

Salmon Viewing Locations in the Snoqualmie Valley

Raging River, Fall City: From downtown Fall City, head south on the Preston-Fall City Road. Turn left, heading east, on SE 44th Place about .1 mile.
Tolt-McDonald Park, Carnation. From Highway 203, head west on NE 40th Street in Carnation and follow signs to the park. View salmon from the footbridge over the river.

Tolt River foot bridge on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, Carnation: From Highway 203, just south of the Tolt River, head east on NE 32nd. Just before Remlinger Farms the trail crosses over the road, park and climb steps to the trail. Head north on the trail to the bridge.

Chinook Bend, Carnation: The turnoff is on the north side of NE Carnation Farm Road, just west of the bridge over the Snoqualmie River. Park and walk in until you come to the gravel bar.

Snoqualmie Valley Trail:
Salmon Signage & Artwork Locations

Learn about salmon through educational signage and salmon-inspired artwork while you walk, run or ride along the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.

McCormick Park, Duvall: Totem pole-like sculptures depict the many facets of the valley’s working rural landscape and the challenges facing salmon. The sculptures were created by students from Cherry Valley Elementary School in Duvall.

Tolt River Bridge, Carnation: Ceramic tiles emblazoned with salmon-inspired artwork can be found encircling a park bench at this trail site. The tiles were created by students with the Tolt Middle School Art Club. The bench was donated by the school’s recycling club.

Griffin Creek Bridge, (.5 mi. south of) Carnation: Interpretive signage only at this location.

Meadow brook Slough, Snoqualmie: “Water Echoes,” a steel arch inspired by the shape of Snoqualmie river’s oxbow at the slough. Students from Two Rivers Middle School in North Bend designed, welded and installed the arch.

There is also a printable brochure describing the best viewing locations and additional information on salmon habitat restoration.

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Aug

18

The Duwamish River Festival will come back to the Duwamish River Park this Saturday August 23rd from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm.

The festival offers live music and dance, kayak tours, homemade tamales, recycled art activity, photos with Bert the Salmon, fun, family-friendly activities, prizes, and information.

Duwamish River Festival

Event Schedule:
11:00 a.m. – Welcome by Masters of Ceremonies, Penny LeGate / DJ Vector
11:30 a.m. – Duwamish Tribe’s Tilibshudub (Singing Feet) dance performance
12:15 p.m. – Pinata Party with Carmen Martinez
12:45 p.m. – Joyas Mestizas folk dance performance
1:30 p.m. – Stanley Alleyne Caribbean steel drums
2:30 p.m. – Recycled Art Parade
2:30 p.m. – Stanley Alleyne Caribbean steel drums

• Kayak Tours at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m.
• Raffle awards each hour – Mariners tickets, a sunset kayak cruise, & prizes
• Kids activities, bounce-house, and dunk tank all day

The following groups will perform:
• Master of Ceremonies: Penny LeGate
• Stanley Alleyne – Caribbean Steel Drum Music
• Mexican Folk Dance group Joyas Mestizas
• Duwamish Tribe T’ilibshudub “Singing Feet”

Duwamish River Festival parking map for Duwamish River Park neighborhood

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Aug

10

Bill Virgin, the Seattle PI’s veteran business reporter, recently wrote an interesting article about area economic development efforts behind capitalizing on community waterfront locations. His article’s opening remarks are worth repeating. The concept certainly applies to individual waterfront homes as well as large scale waterfront community development:

“Our ancestors may have crawled out of the water millions of years ago, but we haven’t traveled far since then. Even in our present, highly evolved form, if we’re not playing on or in the water, then we like to live, dine or work next to water, or just spend a lot of time staring at water.

No denying it, water still holds considerable allure for humans. People flock to cities on water. And when humans want something that is in relatively finite supply, then its value goes up.”

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Aug

9

“Stodgy and industrial” Bremerton has been getting a reputation for thinking outside of its historical box in terms of how to best make its waterfront a centerpiece for the community and economic development. The Bremerton Naval Shipyard and the Washington State ferry terminal had long been the primary utilitarian focus along the shoreline. Now parks, residential condos, convention center, and more are already underway, all centered around the waterfront.

The mayor of Bremerton – who was previously the mayor of Bellevue – has been learning from the positive and negative experiences of other waterfront communities around Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and the entire country. As an outgrowth of his community’s efforts, the Urban Waterfront Revitalization Conference is planned for September 10-12, 2008 at the Kitsap Conference Center in Bremerton (brochure). This conference is also being used to spearhead formation of the nascent group called Urban Waterfront Alliance.

Urban Waterfront Revitalization Conference 2008 at Kitsap Conference Center in Bremerton

The program (or see the program brochure) has a very interesting and diverse line-up. Here is their summary:

“The program addresses core concepts from projects at all stages, from strategy to implementation and beyond. Sessions will feature stories from individual communities – large and small – transforming their waterfronts. The program will also cover key areas such as:

Celebrating and Marketing Your Waterfront
Public and Pedestrian Waterfront Access
Transportation Access Issues
Urban Waterfront Housing
Sustainable Waterfronts
Public Engagement
Financing Your Project
Design and Built Elements”

It looks to be an intriguing conference for anyone desiring to expand the community value of local large scale waterfront concepts.

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Jul

17

Nutria, the beaver-like rodents from South America, are on the rise again in some Portage Bay and Lake Washington areas. They were introduced to Washington and Oregon in the 1930s for fur production, but like many such experiments they got wild and “went wild” breeding and multiplying outside of fur trappers’ control. Considering that their natural predators include alligators and caiman, no wonder they do fairly well here!

Nutria can be trapped and exterminated, which some folks are doing since they can act like moles and tear up valuable shoreline. Some government agencies are looking to get more involved in a wider and more coordinated program to rid the area of this non-native species, but those plans are in the early formative stages.

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Jun

1

As part of the larger market trends, waterfront homes have become more affordable and with higher selection. In some communities, the prices have held up very well due to continued demand by a general group of buyers insulated from the broader market issues of credit, income, mortgage options, and such. However, there are also an increasing number of good options in quality second tier waterfront locations, and supply and demand is gradually catching up with market realities.

The upside for sellers though is that the relative valuation and appreciation of waterfront continues to be stronger in relationship to the rest of the market. It’s always good to have a valuable, in demand type of property where they aren’t making any more shoreline, but they sure can make more inland subdivisions and condos.

An article appeared in today’s Seattle Times about this topic. Although the specific anecdotes in the article are not locally based, the general concepts can still apply.

View of Lake Union and Seattle skyline

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Apr

12

Geese can be a troublesome part of local lakefront living for some. Geese love wide open manicured grass that comes to the water’s edge, like many home owners have. Lawns provide them with foraging spots and open sight lines with no hiding places for predators. The main downside for many waterfront owners: what the geese leave behind…

The easiest way to get rid of geese on your lawn is to create a native vegetation buffer between your lawn and the water. This blocks the sight lines and access routes that geese prefer, and they will move on to open lawns elsewhere. Choose native vegetation of varying heights so that you can frame and enhance your views, with a majority of low lying bushes and native ground cover so that your views are maintained at your eye level but not at the geese’s eye level.

This also provides other benefits to your property. Native vegetation buffers such as this help filter pollutants from your lawn before they enter the lake, and they provide insects for fish and birds. Also, in the rare event of severe wind that creates a lot of high wave action, the larger vegetation will protect your soil and landscaping from erosion far better than grass.

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Mar

11

“Noxious” aquatic weeds are defined as non-native plants that, once established, are destructive to the local ecosystem, competitive with other plants, or difficult to control. You want to avoid these, but they get into our waterways through a thousand different avenues: bottoms of unclean boats, wind and wave movement, natural spreading, animals, etc. Common weeds in King County lakes include Eurasion water milfoil, fragrant water lily, purple loose-strife, and yellow iris.

So, what to do if you start noticing aquatic weeds taking over your lakefront shallow waters? A very good resource is the King County Noxious Weed Control Program. You can contact them for information, ask questions, and get advice on how to get your particular situation under control.

Catching an infestation early is important since large scale infestations can be expensive and time consuming to treat, plus may require a number of permits. So, preventive medicine is good. And cooperation among neighbors is also important… Weeds don’t stop at invisible property lines.

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