Sep

13

If you would like to learn more about your waterfront “front yard”, check out some of these upcoming events at the Environmental Science Center in Seahurst Park, Burien:

Tuesday, September 16th @ 6:30 pm
Seahurst Park Ecosystem Restoration Project
Presentation at ESC by Peter Hummel, Landscape Architect

Sunday, September 21st @ 10 am
Coastal Geology Guided Tour
Site walk starting at ESC led by Jim Johannessen, Engineer Geologist

Tuesday, September 23rd @ 6:30 pm
Exploring Nearshore Habitat
Presentation at ESC by Paul Schlenger , Principal Fisheries Biologist

Tuesday, September 30th @ 6:30 pm
Restoring the Ecosystems Where Land Meets Water
Presentation at ESC by John Small, Landscape Architect

Saturday, October 4th @ 10 am
Hillside Geology Guided Tour
Site walk starting at ESC led by Bill Laprade, Engineer Geologist

Register by following links at the ESC Events page.

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Mar

24

One of the joys of owning waterfront real estate is your proximity to the beauty and recreation made possible by the water itself. However, in a generally small portion of waterfront locations there is the potential for floods. Waterfront property owners in these locations have long been able to rely on flood insurance for peace of mind and for help when the worst happens.  But last year the 2012 Biggert-Waters law went into effect, which left some homeowners reeling over flood insurance premium increases. Thankfully, Congress has crafted and passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act to help waterfront property owners by correcting the problems that the Biggert-Waters law created.

Why the Biggert-Waters Law Was Created

The National Flood Insurance Program is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees dozens of private insurance companies that offer flood insurance coverage to waterfront property owners. In the past, the income from premiums failed to cover the program’s costs during years in which widespread major flooding occurred. In fact, after the U.S. was hit by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, FEMA had to temporarily stop making payments on legitimate claims due to lack of funds. The Biggert-Waters law set out to address the National Flood Insurance Program’s $24 billion debt by gradually phasing out flood insurance policy subsidies.  But when the law was enacted, it became apparent that for many waterfront homeowners the effect was not gradual at all.

How the New Act Helps Waterfront Property Owners

The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act will implement the following:

  • –     Set a limit on annual flood insurance premium rate increases
  • –     Repeal the “property sales trigger” that allowed higher premiums to be set when property was sold, which Realtors feared was depressing the value of some waterfront real estate
  • –     Repeal the “new policy sales trigger,” which allowed higher premiums to be set if a waterfront property owner chose a different policy or went to a different insurance provider for coverage
  • –     Refund premiums to homeowners who overpaid when then the 2012 Biggert-Waters law went into effect

This new act will still address the concerns of the original Biggert-Waters law, but will do so in a way that is more manageable to those who live on the waterfront. The focus is on making this a gradual transition that affected homeowners can plan for, rather than an unexpectedly large bill that is immediately due.

What This Means for You

This new law, which is expected to be signed by the President when it reaches the White House, will still result in eliminating subsidies and addressing debt created by the National Flood Insurance Program. However, existing waterfront property owners in the Seattle area and those who are buying waterfront real estate will still benefit from the program as it is gradually phased out rather than being suddenly taken away. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that not only are you covered by flood insurance, if you are in an area where you even desire to have flood insurance, but you will also be better able to afford insurance in the future for your waterfront home.

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Mar

10

A free workshop offered by the Environmental Science Center gives Seattle area residents a chance to learn more about the design principles that can improve water quality in nearby creeks, lakes, and Puget Sound. Everything from how storm water flows through your waterfront property to the products you use to maintain your yard can directly influence the health of the recreational areas and wildlife habitat that make up the local waterfront.

A Lifetime Impact from Two Hours of Learning

On Saturday, March 29, the Environmental Science Center, SvR Design Company, and Sustainable Burien are offering a free workshop from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. in the Burien Community Center. Registration is required for the session, which will be led by SvR Design Company principal Peg Staeheli, PLA, LEED AP. She will explain what is meant by low-impact design and how adopting these principles can lessen your carbon footprint as well as help the overall health of local waterfront environments. What you learn at this session can have a lifelong impact on how you see your role in the local watershed.

Why You Should Be “Stepping Lightly” on Puget Sound

Workshop organizers use the phrase “stepping lightly” as a reference to leaving a smaller carbon footprint, or environmental impact, on the world around you. For those with waterfront property, having clean water and healthy wildlife nearby enhances the pleasure of living so close to a lake or Puget Sound, but even those who don’t have a daily front-row seat from their waterfront homes will surely appreciate the availability of clean drinking water and abundant salmon and other seafood. Making environmentally friendly choices, like using natural pesticides and organic fertilizer and using native plants in your landscaping, can minimize the footprint you make and reduce the pollution and toxic chemicals in the local watershed.

Being Green Can Save You Greenbacks

Learning about and following low-impact principles can save you money. Chemical fertilizers are easy to come by, and the Center for Watershed Protection says that while 50% of homeowners use them as a routine part of lawn care, only 10-20% of homeowners actually test their soil to see if fertilizers are needed. The rest are pouring money along with toxic chemicals down the drainage pipe! When putting in landscaping around your home, pick plants that are native to the Seattle area which will not only be less costly than more exotic options, they also won’t require as much watering and caretaking to flourish. Carefully designing your landscape to manage and collect rainwater can also reduce your utility bills, either through creating rain gardens that allow water to more thoroughly seep into your soil or by collecting water in rain barrels to water your garden at a later date.

Waterfront Residents Benefit from Low-Impact Design

As you can see, there are financial and environmental reasons to incorporate low-impact design into your waterfront property. The free workshop on March 29 is a great opportunity to learn more about the principles that can help you save money and ensure the long-term health of the local watershed.

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Jan

21

An organization for the waterfront neighborhood of Lake Burien filed an appeal this week against Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) and city of Burien. For years, DOE and Burien worked on negotiations that would update the city’s shoreline. While work began in 2008, disagreements kept it from moving forward. It was not until 2012, when the Burien Working Shoreline Group mediated, that DOE and Burien reached and approved an agreement in 2013.

The Shoreline Master Program

In 1971, Washington enacted the Shoreline Management Act. This required cities and counties with waterfront property to instate rules about the lakes, rivers, and other water bodies. Each city has a unique Shoreline Master Program that fulfills this. Due to old regulations, Washington and DOE asked the cities to update their program to meet today’s more modern needs. This updating is to be completed in a number of steps including:
• Shoreline and land use inventory such as transportation and public use sites
• Shoreline function identification
• Policy and regulation development
• Ecological shoreline analyzed with restoration ideas
• Shoreline Master Programs for each county and city with junctions working together
• Updates submitted to DOE for approval

Proposed Changes to Burien’s Shoreline Master Program

There are five and a half miles of waterfront land in the city of Burien. The last time Burien’s Shoreline Master Program was altered was in 1993 when it became incorporated. Burien first approved a proposed update that had followed a long local review. The city took inventory of land and collaborated with waterfront property owners, environmental agencies, and tribes among many other groups. This all occurred in 2010 and DOE did not approve of all the changes. Four issues became the prime point of interest:
• Regulations to manage Ordinary High Water Mark in new developments
• New renovations and maintenance of existing homes
• Changes to Shoreline Permit Matrix
• Water quality and Nonpoint Pollution

Burien Working Shoreline Group

After lengthy negotiations between DOE and the city of Burien showed no results, the Burien Working Shoreline Group formed. This group is comprised of local residents. It researched the issues and came up with a recommendation based on findings. Both the city and DOE agreed with the recommendation and the Burien Working Shoreline Group re-wrote the proposal to reflect this. The Shoreline Master Program was then approved in October of 2013.

Burien Shoreline Master Program Appeal

Details of the appeal have yet to be released, however, it is one of Lake Burien’s neighborhood groups that filed along with specific individuals. If past issues are taken into consideration, some of the points in the appeal may be:
• Public access concerns of existing waterfront home owners to privately enclosed Lake Burien
• Perhaps Puget Sound access relative to private property
• Incentives and/or condition to provide access

The Growth Management Hearings board will hear the appeal in May 2014. Until then, the project is again on hold. DOE, the city of Burien, and waterfront owners are hopeful the Shoreline Master Program issues will resolve and become enacted soon.

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Oct

7

Seattle is home to some of the most incredible sights. This is particularly true for waterfront property owners, because they get the distinct privilege of witnessing pristine water views from their home every day. Whether they’re bordering Lake Washington, Puget Sound, or one of the other gorgeous bodies of water in the greater Seattle Metropolitan Area, there’s plenty to love about owning a waterfront home here. At the same time, though, sometimes the spectacular high views are from large bluffs that require homeowner maintenance, as will be addressed in an upcoming class on something known as slope stability.

Puget Sound Slope Stability Class

Here’s what happens for some waterfront houses and their owners. You have a nice location at the top of an elevated area overlooking the water, and it happens to have a fairly steep slope on one side. Over time, this slope might erode if water runoff is not properly controlled and cause some potential hazards to your property that you should be mindful about. Because of the topography of the area, features like coastal bluffs, hills, ravines, and shorelines are all frequent features, and they all actually enhance your views. So it should be your goal, if you are a waterfront home owner in these scenarios, to prevent and maintain your slope, which will enable you to avoid issues later on.

Who the Class is For?

The class is targeted at professionals who work in fields like construction, engineering, landscape design, arboriculture, and horticulture, among others. However, it’s also a useful overview for any concerned waterfront home owners who want to ensure that they can protect their home from future slope erosion or landslides. You’ll learn a number of useful things about how water and geology interact, as well as what you can do to reduce erosion and improve slope stability. By knowing the tools and techniques that professionals use, you can either implement them yourself or use your knowledge of the topic to find someone who’s qualified to do the job right.

More Information on the Seattle Class

As for the specifics of the class, it’s being hosted by the University of Washington Botanic Gardens on December 5, 2013, from 8:15 AM through 4:00 PM. Before November 21, you can secure a spot at $125 per person, with lunch provided. It includes a variety of notable speakers, such as Bill Laprade on the subject of Geology & Hydrology of Puget Sound, and Elliot Menashe on Vegetation and Slope Stability and Vegetation in Conjunction with Engineering Solutions. For more information on the class and to find out whether it’s something you’d be interested in, just check out the specifics with UWBG.

In the end, waterfront property offers a great combination of prestige, solitude, and most importantly, views of an awe-inspiring land and seascape. By taking the time to find out what there is to know on slope stability and soil stabilization, you have the opportunity to enjoy a fantastic property without having to worry about the complications that could arise. You owe it to yourself to do what it takes to keep your waterfront home secure, and this upcoming Puget Sound class could be exactly what you need.

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Jul

2

The Seattle, Washington area is home to a unique and interesting feature in the form of floating homes. Because of the location of bodies of water like the Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and many more, there’s a unique opportunity for homeowners not only to buy waterfront real estate, but also to live in floating homes on the water itself. Even better, many of these homes are located close to downtown Seattle, making them a highly attractive place to settle with a view of the water that can’t be beat. In celebration of this Seattle hallmark, the Seattle Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in South Lake Union is showcasing an exhibit called Still Afloat, which focuses on the subject of floating homes.

The Diverse Waterfront Neighborhood
For a number of years, the neighborhood of floating homes on Lake Union and Portage Bay has engaged in some fairly tumultuous history. There have been land use battles, evictions, and a host of political and economic challenges to the very existence of these floating homes. Recent changes have come, some of which enhance the stability and value of Seattle’s floating homes, others of which threaten to erase the waterfront property community itself. Fortunately, through it all, the iconic Seattle image of the houseboat has endured, and so has the thriving and diverse community on Lake Union and Portage Bay.

Still Afloat Exhibit
Billed as a contemporary history of Seattle’s floating homes, the Still Afloat exhibit is a unique look at the history of this Seattle trademark. The temporary Museum of History and Industry exhibit features images from the past, complete with accounts of what life is like in the floating waterfront home community. The exhibit includes everything from photographs and video interviews to underwater film and a scale model of a floating home, which reveals the technology that makes floating homes possible. Perhaps most importantly, the exhibit is a celebration of the community and its contribution to making Seattle the vibrant and storied metropolis that it has become.

Still Afloat Adds to Seattle Waterfront Community
For those intrigued by floating homes and their Seattle waterfront community, Still Afloat is an all-encompassing experience that’s perfect for Seattle tourists, locals, and even floating homeowners and residents themselves. It will run from June 15 until November 3, 2013, and it will be located in the Linda and Ted Johnson Family Community Gallery at the Museum of History and Industry. You’ll have a rare opportunity to see the sights and hear the sounds of life in this unique community, as well as witnessing the stories of residents who can track the changes in the community over the years. If a trip to Still Afloat doesn’t fully quench your thirst for floating homes, you can also look at the Seattle Floating Homes Association which includes great information and features current plus past newsletters about the community and its lifestyle.

There’s truly nothing like the houseboats community in Seattle, and the museum’s Still Afloat exhibit is a limited-time opportunity to take a glimpse into this fascinating piece of Washington history.

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May

3

The Environmental Science Center, located on the waterfront at Seahurst Park in Burien, has many fun summer programs oriented to living around the water and Puget Sound:

SEAHURST SUMMER SATURDAYS
10am – Noon (except June 8th)

May 18 Animal Detectives
Practice moving like different animals and make up your own track stories. Then hit the trail looking for animal signs (nests, homes, tracks, scat). Each participant will take home their own plaster track.

May 25 Stormwater Adventure!
Play games, explore tools, tell stories, and dance to learn more about the water all around us!

June 1 Science in Action! Fishery Observers
Place yourself in the shoes of a fisheries observer and conduct your own “fish population survey”! Learn about fish from different places and how to count and identify them. Recommended ages: 10 and up.

June 8 Bats, bats, bats! NIGHT PROGRAM 7-9pm
Visit Seahurst Park at night to learn about the bats of the Pacific Northwest. Spend time outside with an expert “bat lady” looking for signs of bats. Don’t forget your flashlight and hiking shoes!

June 15 & 16 Visit ESC at the Burien Wild Strawberry Festival!

June 22 Dog-Eat-Dog World: Food Chains at Seahurst Beach
It’s a rough life in the wild when everyone wants to eat you. Play games and examine marine plankton to look for earth’s most terrifying PREDATORS!! Also, spend time on the beach with naturalists.

June 29 Nature Scavenger Hunt
Explore Seahurst Park with all of your senses! Learn about the diverse life right here in the park and then explore with a fun and educational nature hike.

July 6 Insect Safari
This is your chance to view thousands of insects from all around the world! Then take a short walk around Seahurst Park to learn how to collect and sample for insects.

July 13 Scatology – Odd Digestion
in the Animal Kingdom
Compare human digestion to other animals then look for scat and food sources of animals at Seahurst. Upon returning to the center, learn about digestion in birds of prey by dissecting a real owl pellet!

July 20 Beach Exploration
Your little ones will love learning about what lives at Seahurst Beach through puppets, art, and hands-on exploration! Also, spend time on the beach with a trained naturalist. Recommended ages: 2-6 years, older siblings can join, too.

Burien Three Tree Point Puget Sound Olympic Mountains water view real estate for sale

New Burien Three Tree Point Puget Sound water view WaterHavens listing for sale

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Mar

30

Wetlands can be an important development issue for certain properties near lakes, rivers, and the Sound. You can become very knowledgeable about wetlands by participating in the following course:

A Wetlands Class is being offered by the Washington State University Thurston County Extension and the Water Resource Program as an accredited 15 clock hour Wetlands class on Wednesday April 13 and Thursday April 14, 2011. The class will be held in Shelton, WA at the Squaxin Island Tribe Museum Library and Research Center. The class is certified for agents, brokers, Realtors, appraisers, planners, developers, and homeowners.

Participants will learn why wetlands are important, how they are identified, and their values and functions to society during this two-day course. Regulations involved when buying or selling properties with wetlands are discussed, as well as working with consultants, and the role of land trusts regarding wetland properties. A field trip to a local wetland reinforces classroom instruction.

Speakers include professionals from the WA Department of Ecology, People for Puget Sound, Thurston County Long Range Planning, Capitol Land Trust, and WSU Extension.

Lunch, morning refreshments, clock hour certificate and course materials for all days are included in the $180 fee. The general public is invited for $130 (no clock hours).

For further information or to register call WSU Thurston County Extension at (360) 867-2167 with credit card information or a check, or contact Brian Stafki at b.stafki@wsu.edu.

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Dec

29

The Environmental Science Center is hosting its second Moonlight Beach Walk for this winter season. Here’s the scoop:

“Join us on New Year’s Day! Moonlight Beach Walk this Saturday, January 1st, from 7:30-9:30pm at Seahurst Beach in Burien.

Imagine you are on the shoreline at a lovely low tide. Rocks that are covered all year lie exposed to view while the sea denizens remain happily cold and wet in the dark. All around you, people waving flashlights are intently studying the amazing and abundant sea life as local naturalists help you discover the wonders of your Puget Sound shoreline.

Bundle up against the weather and be sure to bring flashlight with good batteries, warm hat and dry gloves, and wading boots (you’ll be in ankle deep water).

For more information, contact Programs@EnvScienceCenter.org or call 206-248-4266.”

Enjoy it if you go. They are always fascinating and will definitely educate you about your own “front yard” if you live on the Sound.

Environmental Science Center logo

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Dec

1

The Environmental Science Center is a deserving local shoreline education organization (I was previously on its Board of Directors), and they are having more of their popular Moonlight Beach Walks this winter. They are fun, entertaining, and unique. Here’s the scoop from ESC:

Don’t miss the Environmental Science Center’s Moonlight Beach Walk this Saturday, December 4th, from 7:30-9:30pm at Seahurst Beach in Burien.

Imagine you are on the shoreline at a lovely low tide. Rocks that are covered all year lie exposed to view while the sea denizens remain happily cold and wet in the dark. All around you, people waving flashlights are intently studying the amazing and abundant sea life as local naturalists help you discover the wonders of your Puget Sound shoreline.

BUNDLE UP AGAINST THE WEATHER AND BE SURE TO BRING: Bright flashlight with good batteries, warm hat and dry gloves, and wading boots (you’ll be in ankle deep water).

For more information, contact Programs@EnvScienceCenter.org or call 206-248-4266.

Environmental Science Center logo

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May

9

For anyone living on the shoreline, and especially on bluff properties, here is an informative workshop that is also free! I participated in a version of this same workshop years ago, and found it helpful. The instructors are knowledgeable about ways to improve bluff stability, reduce erosion, install appropriate plants, deal with drainage, work within complicated permit systems, and more. The first half is indoor instruction, and the second half is outdoors “hands-on” obeservation and recommendations at actual shoreline bluff properties.

The workshop is offered at three different places and dates: in Normandy Park, Vashon Island, and Discovery Park / Seattle.

From the workshop announcement:

Is your marine bluff or beach property eroding or jeopardizing your house? Do you want to manage vegetation to stabilize slopes while maintaining a beautiful view of Puget Sound?

The King Conservation District invites you to attend a FREE workshop developed for property owners along the marine shorelines of King County. The workshop will provide participants with an opportunity to learn about the ecological, geological, and vegetation management issues associated with owning property Where the Water Begins.

Topics:

  • Understanding the Ecology of Marine Nearshore and Riparian Ecology
  • Recognizing Coastal Geological Hazards
  • Using Native Vegetation to Reduce Erosion & Improve Fish
    and Wildlife Habitat
  • Who Should Attend:

  • Landowners interested in stable natural marine shorelines
    & in reducing the potential for erosion and landslides
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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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