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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Apr

21

Recently in the Puget Sound area, there was talk about new oil trains that are planned to run through parts of Washington State. Concerned homeowners are worried about the effect the trains will have on their communities. Right now, protesters in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia are delaying 11 miles of trains that could potentially clog the Pacific Northwest railway system every day.

 

Why Stop the Oil Trains?

Protesters are not only concerned about the eyesore and noise the trains would create. They’re also worried about potential spills and accidents the trains could cause. At full capacity, the trains would carry 785,000 barrels of oil every day. The trains would come from Alberta as well as North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming.

 

Currently, there are 10 proposed or on-the-way oil-by-rail projects planned for Washington State. Residents of the Puget Sound area and other parts of Washington will have a chance to learn more about the projects this April. Since July of last year, there was a steady stream of derailments along the train lines, most of them outside of Washington. Some residents, however, are concerned these derailments will increase in Washington if the trains are allowed to run through the state.

 

Environmental Issues

Washington has always been concerned and involved with environmental and climate issues in the past. Some residents of Puget Sound feel the oil industry may cause harm to the environment. Spilled oil can damage the environment and kill animals. The pollution caused by trains may also cause issues.

 

Public speaking events are to be conducted across Washington with focus in cities where the oil-by-rail projects are planned. At these meetings, people can share their concerns if they would like their city councils to take a stand and support a statewide moratorium on oil-by-rail shipping. City councils in both Spokane and Bellingham have made such resolutions. Protesters who plan to attend the latest community meeting in Seattle hope Gov. Jay Inslee also approves a resolution to “freeze all pending oil-by-rail projects until environmental and safety concerns have been addressed,” as noted in the Bainbridge Review.

 

The Puget Sound and waterfront cities throughout Washington might band together to stop the trains from running. Right now, it’s unclear how long it will take for the safety and environmental concerns to be addressed and people are unsure what will happen once the issues are taken care of. Either the oil-by-rail projects will be completed or the citizens of Washington will veto the projects. If this happens, the oil industry will be forced to find other states to comply and other avenues to transport oil.

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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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Feb

24

Floating homes and houseboats are an iconic part of Seattle waterfront living, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t come under fire in recent years. Three years ago, the city of Seattle undertook a rewriting of shorelines policies that led to questions about whether owners would be able to continue to live in their houseboats in Lake Union and elsewhere. In 2011, a Washington senate bill offered grandfathered protection to stationary floating houses. But the bill’s sponsor, Senator Jamie Pedersen, said he unintentionally excluded live-aboard vessels and barges. He recently introduced a new bill to extend the same protection to moveable houseboats that stationary floating homes now enjoy.

Controversy Along the Waterfront

Stationary floating houses not only stay in one place, they are also typically hooked in to local utilities. Floating vessels, on the other hand, are able to move from place to place along the waterfront. However, most rent space from a marina to have a reliable place to dock for the long term. When the 2011 senate bill passed, many interpreted the omission of live-aboard vessels to mean that local governments should not continue to accommodate houseboats and other floating vessels in waterfront property decisions. Lake Union Liveaboard Association president Mauri Shuler described houseboat owners as having “massive trouble” in dealing with the City of Seattle and the state Department of Ecology, which are in charge of shoreline regulations. State officials acknowledged a preference to lease seriously limited marina space to smaller recreational vehicles rather than larger, live-aboard vessels.

Clarifying Lawmakers’ Intent

Senator Pedersen has introduced Senate Bill 6450 to clear up the lingering confusion. An amendment to the Shoreline Management Act of 1971 will extend protections to floating vessels that are used or were designed as a residence, providing the owner had leased moorage space prior to July 1, 2014. This waterfront bill passed the senate unanimously and is awaiting a vote in the house.

What This Means for Waterfront Real Estate

In short, this assures current houseboat owners that they won’t be set adrift as shoreline regulations change. Taking a broader view, however, waterfront property owners will be relieved to know that some of the character and charm of lakeside life will carry on as always. But they may also now have additional questions about the availability of marina space for pleasure cruisers and other non-residential watercraft and about the environmental impact that moveable vessels will have on Lake Union and other areas of the Seattle waterfront. Those who live in houseboats and floating houses naturally share concerns with others who own waterfront real estate, which may make them allies as political maneuverings happen regarding plans for future development in the area.

The house has yet to act on the senate bill, but as it has already received unanimous approval from the senate and moved out of committee, it seems a foregone conclusion to suggest the bill will most likely pass.

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Feb

10

People may assume that managing and developing the land along Puget Sound and nearby lakes should mainly be the concern of those who own waterfront real estate, but Seattle Mayor Ed Murray clearly sees it as a priority for the entire community. The Mayor recently announced the establishment of a new Office of the Waterfront and appointed Jared Smith as the program director to coordinate city initiatives along the water’s edge, including projects that impact the city’s transportation, planning and development, parks, and public utilities departments. But why is the mayor putting so much effort into such a geographically small portion of the city? In a word, impact.

During the 2013 mayoral race, Seattle Times columnist Jonathan Martin stated that the waterfront would become “the most lasting legacy of the next Seattle mayor,” citing the nearly $1 billion the city has earmarked for development activities along its shoreline in addition to the funds already being directed to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The strength of Murray’s appointees shows that the Office of the Waterfront is gearing up to have a decisive impact on Seattle’s waterfront. Smith previously led operations for a company responsible for design and technical work for the new Highway 99 tunnel. The mayor also pulled from the ranks of those who worked on Safeco Field, appointing Ken Johnsen and Victor Oblas as project manager for the seawall and chief construction engineer, respectively.

The Office of the Waterfront will be positioned to make decisions that will reverberate throughout the downtown and waterfront areas. As rough plans and concepts become finalized and new guidelines are established for redevelopment along waterways, those who own waterfront real estate may be subject to new covenants prohibiting buildings that exceed certain heights or don’t meet population density standards. And all Seattle residents will likely be interested in the “new” 20 acres of public land that will become available on Puget Sound’s deep water port when the viaduct comes down in 2016. That open land creates an opportunity for pocket beaches, promenades, and green space that will enable more locals and tourists to take part in the many fun activities to be found along Seattle’s waterfront.

Creating new public access beaches and stimulating growth and development along Puget Sound will not only increase the interest in and value of waterfront property, it will provide more beauty and pleasure for everyone in the greater community. Having such a vibrant, vital area so closely tied to the city’s downtown will not only boost tourism but, when done in a thoughtful and deliberate way, will mitigate potential negative impacts that increased tourism may have on residents. Small wonder, then, that the mayor has made waterfront development such a priority.

As Martin wrote in his column, “This is a think-big moment for Seattle.” It’s also an exciting time for anyone interested in Seattle waterfront real estate.

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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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Nov

4

It’s clear that Seattle has a lot of wonderful features that are unique to it. The greater metropolitan area can claim the Space Needle, an assortment of parks and gardens, incredible restaurants and shops, and of course, many views of gorgeous lakes and ocean. From Lake Washington to Puget Sound, there’s nothing like being situated on the waterfront, especially if you’re a home owner. Now you can add one more unique feature to being in Seattle’s waterfront community, and that is the tram. There’s something particularly special about trams.

Origin of the Trams

Before you admire the trams themselves, it helps to take a step back and consider how they’re possible today. Take a look back at the history of the area and you’ll uncover the role glaciers played in Seattle’s modern waterfront and topography. Those glaciers painstakingly carved the steep slopes that Seattle’s waterfront is known for today. The hilly terrain is a picturesque feature of some waterfront property, allowing home owners to see far out into the water from a high vantage point. For some waterfront property residents, the tram was a natural next step for both convenience and enjoyment. It allowed them to position their home lower on a hillside or bluff while still having relatively easy access from their car above.

Using Trams in the Waterfront Community

Imagine your home is situated on a bluff and there’s a beach below. As the owner of a tram access property, you can travel by tram from your home to the beach on a direct path, rather than resorting to a steep switchback trail. Or you can do the reverse: have your home at the low bank water’s edge, below where cars can readily access the area above. Using the tram might be an extra leg in your journey, but that doesn’t mean you can’t thoroughly enjoy the experience. Many waterfront home owners opted for a property on the lake or Sound because they sought the privacy and solitude. With a tram, you are literally above or below it all, and it can be an incredibly peaceful and relaxing experience. Best of all, trams have started incorporating a number of highly effective and approved safety devices, so all you have to worry about is where you’re headed next.

Grand Ralph Anderson Designed Haven

If you like the idea of a tram access property, a grand Ralph Anderson designed WaterHaven currently available might be a good choice for you. This is a house that captures the spirit of the Great Northwest and provides the owner with 76 beautiful feet of sandy low bank waterfront. It looks out across Puget Sound and frequently bears witness to an astonishing array of colors at sunrise and sunset. If you’re looking to enjoy waterfront property and tram access, this is a home that showcases what’s great about being on the water in Seattle. Couple that with the quiet community, and you can start to see the appeal Seattle’s waterfront houses.

Puget Sound view from private and peaceful tram access home

Puget Sound view from private and peaceful tram access home

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Oct

21

There’s a lot about the city of Seattle that’s special, but one of its most exciting and enduring features is the presence of so many pristine lakes and other bodies of water. From Lake Washington to Puget Sound, the greater Seattle Metropolitan Area offers a lot to appreciate when it comes to owning a waterfront home. Waterfront property owners get the benefits of a gorgeous view, a convenient new mode of transportation, and close access to downtown Seattle and a thriving business district. One good example of life in a waterfront community is an upcoming family event in the spirit of Halloween.

Trick or Treat

Kids have it good in Seattle. Not only do the little ones get the opportunity to trick or treat days ahead of Halloween, but they also have a wide variety of places to visit. On Sunday, October 27, from 11 AM to 5 PM, trick-or-treaters can visit the Seattle waterfront and get candy from the businesses there for free. The businesses that will be participating are located between Ferry Terminal and Bell Harbor Conference Center. On top of the free candy, the trick-or-treaters and their families can enjoy free parking on the street because it’s on a Sunday.

Other Festive Events

As if several hours of free candy from businesses along the waterfront weren’t enough, there are more events happening in the area. You can dedicate your weekend to the Halloween holiday by stopping by the Seattle Aquarium. The aquarium is putting on a special event called Aquarium Halloween 2013, and it features fun events like underwater pumpkin carving, face painting, games, and more. Also on October 27, from 11 AM to 1 PM, is a Seattle Fire Department show and tell. It’s clear that there’s no shortage of activity and festivities in downtown Seattle along the waterfront this year.

The Seattle Waterfront

The Seattle waterfront is one of the most memorable and captivating neighborhoods in Seattle. Along with the Seattle Aquarium, it features a variety of restaurants, souvenir shops, and more. You can experience one of the greatest pleasures of having access to the waterfront by simply walking along the pier and admiring the view of Elliott Bay. You can get even more up close to the water view by taking a scenic ferry ride. It calls to mind the kind of view that a waterfront home owner can enjoy every day, as well as the kind of convenience they get to visit Seattle’s bustling downtown business communities.

 

Along with some truly breathtaking views, residential waterfront property in Seattle offers several perks, including peace, prestige, and easy access to the action through transportation like the King County Water Taxi or ferries. With the ability to tap into a thriving and generous business community, waterfront residents can easily take advantage of some of the greatest benefits that Seattle has to offer. Be sure to take advantage of the one of them yourself when October 27 rolls around. Early trick or treating and Aquarium Halloween 2013 are just some of the many events that remind people why Seattle is a fantastic place to live.

 

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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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Aug

13

There’s an issue being discussed by the city of Bellevue and Washington State’s Department of Ecology. At stake is Bellevue’s shoreline plan, which is a document that outlines how to protect the city’s bodies of water, including Lake Washington, Lake Sammamish, and Phantom Lake. While there’s nothing objectionable in the intent of the plan, which is to protect the lakes within Bellevue’s borders, it’s become a problem with waterfront property homeowners who feel that certain provisions would create an unnecessary and unfair restriction on the usage of their own property.

The Waterfront Property Shoreline Plan

What was contained in the shoreline plan that irked many owners of waterfront houses along Lake Sammamish? In an early draft of the plan, the Department of Ecology asked for clear criteria for a property owner to show that an erosion-control structure is necessary in order to protect a home. It also called for limits on a process that could exempt property owners from some regulations. The Shoreline Master Program must be approved by Ecology before it will become law, which is where the conflict is coming in. Homeowners are worried the new plan would overly complicate the process of remodeling their homes or building new features like patios and docks, as it requires new houses to be situated at least 50 feet from the water and creates a 25-feet “vegetation conservation area” where native plants must be retained or replaced as needed.

Further Conflict

While existing homes are usually grandfathered in to their existing footprints, the plan still seems too invasive and controlling for many Lake Sammamish property owners, because of the onerous restrictions on new construction. This backlash led to the proposal being rewritten by Bellevue’s Planning Commission, which shook up and reformed appointments of many waterfront property-rights advocates. The inevitable problem was that the state Department of Ecology not only didn’t agree with the changes, but actually viewed many of them as violations of state regulations and was irritated at not being kept informed of the changes as they occurred. In fact, officials cited 101 elements of the plan that they deemed out of compliance.

Communication and Compromise on the Waterfront

Ultimately, the key to a future where these bodies of water and happy waterfront real estate owners can peacefully coexist is dependent on communication and compromise. While it’s not too pressing of an issue for existing homeowners who don’t feel the need to do any major remodels or near-water construction projects, the fact remains that the proposal would put major burdens on future waterfront property buyers. Since owning property along the lake is a fixture of the Seattle community, it’s really up to the Bellevue Planning Commission and Washington’s Department of Ecology to work out a compromise that won’t alienate existing and future homeowners along the water but will still get the job of protecting the water done right. On the positive side, both the Planning Commission in Bellevue and Ecology are prepared to reinitiate communication with each other on the proposal until the issue is resolved. In the end, both sides hope it will be better for everybody, including waterfront homeowners.

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Jul

30

The beautiful waterfront real estate community of Pine Lake has a new story to tell. Today, Pine Lake itself is considered ground zero for a new infestation of the invasive species identified as Red Swamp Crayfish. Pine Lake is a small body of water just 40 feet deep and located roughly 20 miles to the east of Seattle. Picture the shores of this area, populated with gorgeous waterfront property, a series of docks, and vibrant waterfront activity. Now imagine the devastation that could be wrought on the delicate ecosystem of this Northwest community. The Red Swamp Crayfish is causing problems that current and prospective owners of waterfront houses in the greater Seattle metropolitan area need to keep in mind.

How It Happened

The problem began as these crawfish migrated north from their native habitat on the Gulf Coast and in Southeastern United States, leapfrogging from Northwestern lake to Northwestern lake and encroaching on the native species of fish like bass or trout. Bass and trout fishermen in Pine Lake rely on a healthy supply of fish, and the ecosystem balance has now shifted to the point where Red Swamp Crayfish have outnumbered the hometown species of crayfish known as signal crayfish. Over the course of 13 years, it’s changed from a 1 to 1 ratio to a ratio of 5 or 10 to 1 today, a catastrophic shift for the native species.

Why It’s Harmful

The invasion is having an impact on both the ecology of the area and the local economy, making it personal for the many waterfront home owners in Pine Lake and other Seattle lakefront communities. Specifically, the Red Swamp Crawfish has an adverse effect on other lake species, eating tadpoles and fish eggs while reproducing more quickly and prolifically than other species like the signal crayfish. They also consume the plants that provide cover for young fish, leaving them more vulnerable to predation. Over time, the accumulation of Red Swamp Crayfish is leading to a huge disruption of the ecosystem, while damaging the diversity and unique charm of the waterfront.

What Can Be Done

On the positive side, the infestation has been met with swift opposition by a wide range of responders. Many who have a home on the waterfront have joined in on the campaign to either eradicate the Red Swamp Crayfish entirely, or to at least drive their numbers back down to sustainable levels. In order to accomplish this, waterfront homeowners in Pine Lake are setting a huge number of traps in the water. Pine Lake residents are encouraged to tally how many they catch and so far, the residents have seen their efforts pay off with more than 500 Red Swamp Crayfish caught just this year. There’s additional good fortune in the fact that residents can enjoy the crawfish they catch in a range of enjoyable dishes, including everything from crayfish pie to crayfish bakes.

While the epicenter of the problem might be Pine Lake, there are actually nine other Washington State lakes with their own Red Swamp Crayfish infestation. It’s up to all of these waterfront communities to be vigilant in containing this threat to their properties and the attractive natural wonder of Seattle and Washington’s lakes.

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Jul

16

One of the most picturesque and exciting features of the Seattle area is its trademark waterfront real estate, complete with floating homes and houseboats. The city’s Lake Union and Portage Bay neighborhoods are home to a thriving community of waterfront houses and homeowners. These homeowners enjoy a fantastic view of Seattle water, as well as easy access to downtown Seattle. Even better, the area is privy to highlights that aren’t found elsewhere, such as Lake Union Park’s FarmBoat floating market. This attraction, held on the historic steamship known as Virginia V, has a storied tradition and a lot of charm.

A Brief History of FarmBoat Floating Market
When it comes to Seattle’s sites, waterfront attractions boast some of the longest histories around, and the FarmBoat Floating Market is no exception. The market is held aboard the long-lived Virginia V and docked at Lake Union Park Wharf, where it harkens back to another age. Around the turn of the 20th century, shipping vessels of steam and sails were the transportation of choice for agricultural goods. Hundreds of ships just like the Virginia V used to travel to and from Puget Sound to move farm goods around before there were trucks and highways. A floating time capsule, the Virginia V captures that unique old-world atmosphere and makes it available to Seattle locals and tourists alike.

The Attraction of Lake Union’s FarmBoat Floating Market
Like the water taxi and water-based firefighters, the floating market is a distinct fixture of the waterfront community. Market visitors can stop by the FarmBoat Floating Market to browse local produce and specialty foods, enjoy a scenic lunch, and even pick up a bit more knowledge about this fascinating bit of Seattle history, such as how the Virginia V once transported farm products from Vashon Island to Pike Place Market way back in 1922. In terms of local heritage and tradition, the FarmBoat Floating Market does a great job of shedding some light on this interesting locale. Even better, the entire experience is available free of charge, which is always a draw when trying to decide which of Seattle’s many attractions to see.

Placing FarmBoat Floating Market in Context
Lake Union FarmBoat Floating Market is managed by the Urban Public Waterfront Association, or UPWA. This organization is a non-profit with the mission of connecting people to the local maritime environment through water-centric events and activities. This alone shows how big a role the waterfront plays in Seattle’s culture and historical traditions. Ultimately, the Floating Market is a great choice for learning more about the area and experiencing what draws people to Seattle’s waterfront property. Whether visitors want to see the FarmBoat Floating Market as a slice of Seattle’s waterfront community, as a living relic of a bygone era, as a compelling shopping destination, or as a great vantage point for admiring Lake Union and the distinctive downtown Seattle skyline, FarmBoat Floating Market is a destination of choice. It has earned its place as a one of a kind attraction in Seattle.

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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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Apr

23

It’s common knowledge that major bodies of water are public property. This was established long ago so that no one person could monopolize crucial water sources. What happens though, when a public lake is completely surrounded by private property? That’s exactly the topic of debate for homeowners and public residents who want access to Lake Burien.

Lake Burien, which is a 44-acre lake in King County, Washington located at the old town center of Burien, is entirely surrounded by private waterfront property owners, creating a serene oasis for them to enjoy. Because their homes surround the lake, they have exclusive access compared to the rest of the town. However, since the lake is considered a public resource, this exclusive access has been a point of contention for a now.

Every now and then, public residents who don’t own the waterfront real estate in Burien request that public access to the lake be created. However, the private owners are concerned about what this could do to the environment. To research the matter, several lakeside property owners hired a team of environmental consultants who did in fact conclude that public access to the lake would “entail significant risk of degradation” and that opening up public access would be “ill-advised.” Some of the reasoning behind this is that the lake is too shallow for increased use. At only 29 feet at its deepest and an average depth of just 13 feet, a large increase in boat, pet, and human traffic would definitely have a big impact on the ecosystem of the lake. Of course, while homeowners understand why the public wants access, the idea of destroying an ecosystem and losing their peace and quiet has caused some concern. Their hope is that the environmental recommendation would prevent any potentially-damaging public access even if lakefront property were to be transitioned into a park.

The Burien waterfront home owners say it’s fine for people to want to come and look at the lake, but it’s the access to the water itself that could be detrimental. In other words, they want to keep boats and other water-born activities limited to the few home owners. This is in an attempt to save its environmental state, since increased access to thousands of people could “irreversibly damage” the lake.

The public has also raised some valid points though, saying opening up a park and perhaps some city-owned lots could bring revenue to the town. A proposal to rezone the area was suggested. There is also a children’s center nearby that had hopes of buying and selling adjacent lake lots in order to improve their own financial situation. These ideas have not yet been approved though.

Obviously, this kind of private control of such a tranquil body of water greatly improves home values in the area, and waterfront land owners of Burien are guaranteed to enjoy peace, quiet, and a beautiful view as well as some very exclusive lakeside access. With approximately 48,000 people residing in the city though, the odds of buying one of these homes to take advantage of those benefits are not great. It is possible that an agreement could be created in the near future. Such a compromise would need to take into account the environmental integrity of the lake as well as the overall good of the community.

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Jan

22

The Seattle City Council approved its long-underway revision to the Shoreline Master Program (SMP). These regulations pertain to buildings, homes, uses, and construction along the city’s waterways.  Any updates can create controversy among competing factions, as was the case this time too.

The Seattle Times summarized changes to the SMP as including “an allowance for building boats for Washington State Ferries, a provision that fueling stations must be for boats only, limits on signs in the shoreline area and restrictions on pesticides and fertilizers”.

I provide a more detailed analysis and update regarding the discussions around houseboats, house barges, and floating homes in a separate post here.

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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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Jul

8

The salmon runs through the Ballard Locks are up from the past two years, but still below levels needed to permit recreational salmon fishing in Lake Washington. The salmon runs last met the minimum numbers in 2006. Distant Columbia River sockeye salmon are returning in record numbers through the Bonneville Dam, but that success hasn’t translated to our local fish populations yet.
As an interesting historical and habitat note, Lake Washington sockeye salmon were artificially introduced by the state in the 1930s to create a fishery and provide lifecycle nutrients for riverbank plants. Most start in the Cedar River, while others are released from local hatcheries. Hopefully the numbers will continue increasing!

Cedar River Lake Washington sockeye salmon

Lake Washington and Cedar River sockeye salmon in spawning colors



Click here for Des Moines Woodmont Beach Puget Sound waterfront house for sale

Des Moines Puget Sound no bank waterfront for sale (click photo for info)

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May

30

The King County / Seattle Aquarium Beach Naturalists Program is a great local asset for people that love the shoreline, its critters, and learning about our local Puget Sound ecosystem. The Beach Naturalists are all volunteers, and have gone through an informative multi-week training program held at the Seattle Aquarium before they are let loose on our local public beaches to help casually teach beachcombers young and old about what they are seeing. I was personally a Beach Naturalist for several years and enjoyed both what I learned and what I could teach others. It meshed well with my other volunteer work as a People for Puget Sound community “Pod Leader”, too.

One of the most interesting things about going out to a beach on a Beach Naturalists day is experiencing all of the hidden aspects of beach life that you would likely otherwise just walk on by without ever noticing. Even on a seemingly “barren” gravel beach there is a surprising amount of life under every little rock. And on beaches where large boulders are strewn about, the variety and intensity of sea life exposed at low tides is exceptional.

Definitely check it out; you’ll learn a lot and every visit afterwards to your own front yard or to a local beach will have more depth.

Resources:
Beach Naturalists Program
Beach Naturalists’ schedule on local public beaches

Seattle Aquarium logo for Beach Naturalists Program

Seattle Aquarium Beach Naturalists Program

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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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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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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

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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