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Friday, July 24, 2009

Open letter to the USFS Regarding the "Greenwater Floodplain Restoration Project"

Sent by Email To:

District Ranger, Snoqualmie Ranger District
902 SE North Bend Way
Building #1
North Bend, WA 98045
(425) 888-1421
fax (425) 888-1910,

John Wise
City of Enumclaw

Reagan Dunn
King County Councilmember
Council District 9
516 Third Ave.
Rm. 1200
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206-296-1009
Toll Free: 800-325-6165
TTY/TDD: 206-296-1024
Fax: 206-296-0198

Shawn Bunney
Pierce County Council
930 Tacoma Ave S, Rm 1046
Tacoma, WA 98402-2176
(253) 798-3635
FAX (253) 798-7509

Christopher Hurst
31st Legislative District
Olympia Office:
314 John L. O'Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7866

CC to

James Neff
Investigations Editor
Seattle Times

Jeff Mayor
Area Reporter
Tacoma News Tribune

Michelle Nicolosi

Kevin Hanson
Enumclaw Courier Herald
P.O. Box 157
Enumclaw, WA 98022

Dear Sirs,

The US Forest Service is proposing a habitat restoration project on part of the Greenwater River. The plan is called the “Greenwater Floodplain Restoration Project,” and is stated as being organized by the US Forest Service in collaboration with the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group and Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. The US Forest Service has established a web site that provides details for this project. A link to that site can be found here:

According to some Greenwater residents, there was no organized effort to inform local residents of this project, including residents directly affected by this project. Many property owners whose property abuts the Greenwater river were not informed. One of my neighbors found a reference to the project proposal in the Enumclaw Courier Herald Newspaper, dated June 24, 2009, under Legal Public Notices. She recently sent a copy of the notice to me by way of email.

Part of the proposed project is to construct 16 engineered log jams along a 3.5 mile reach of the Greenwater River. According to some with expertise on the topic, including notably the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, this kind of log jam has a known and studied history of failure over time. Here is an example of the risks as stated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:


Engineered log jams pose inherent risks to infrastructure and human stream users. These risks include:

· safety hazards caused by the log jams or the cables that anchor them (this risk can be somewhat reduced by placing warning signs upstream from the log jams to alert boaters),

· blockage of culverts or bridge openings by large woody debris that has been dislodged from a log jam upstream,

· unanticipated erosion across the channel or to the adjacent streambank,

· increased channel roughness and constriction, and/or

· increased flood stage.

When this kind of log jam fails, typically during high water volume storm events, the engineered log jam may travel a way down river and become in effect an engineering failure turned disaster. If one or more of these proposed log jams were to block a portion of a river, or become lodged against a bridge footing, the force of the flood water would soon be redirected around and/or over the jam, with likely ruinous results for nearby property.

I have concern in two areas regarding this proposal.

My first concern is for my neighbors, who were not properly informed of this plan.

My second concern is regarding a bridge a little downstream of this proposed restoration project, that may be put at risk. This is bridge number 410-125, found on SR-410 between mile post 42 and mile post 43, in King County. The bridge was last inspected in 2008. The bridge is a concrete T beam construction, built in 1932, and identified as “functionally obsolete” by the State DOT due to non-compliance with current building code. The bridge is considered to be in good shape given that it is 77 years old. There has been some rip-rap added by one of the footings under the bridge, due to erosion.

Until about 5 years ago, storm related timber buildup by the bridge was removed by Greenwater local Mr. Mel Southworth. Mr. Southworth performed this service for many years, often as a volunteer and also as a paid contractor. Mr. Southworth recently stopped performing this service. Neighbors are concerned that storm debris related watch on the bridge may have become inconsistent due to many years of local monitoring and maintenance.

This bridge provides access for up to 2 million people per year who transit the area. Were the bridge to become damaged, visitors and the local residents of Greenwater, Crystal Village, Crystal River Ranch, Silver Springs, Crystal Mountain plus the Northeast entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park would be 100% inaccessible by motor vehicle for about 6 months of the year. Clearly this bridge is critical providing access to this area.

I contacted someone in a field office of our State DOT. He said that typically the Department of Fish and Wildlife provides management for these restoration projects. He added that the Department of Fish and Wildlife does not necessarily check with State DOT on potential impacts of Fish and Wildlife projects. Furthermore, accordingly, the Department of Fish and Wildlife may pursue a project without requesting feedback from the State DOT about the potential impact of their projects to the transportation system.

I don’t know if the Department of Fish and Wildlife is playing a role in this project. Someone with engineering knowledge of bridges and bridge maintenance should be part of this process.

I am asking your help for two goals. One is to provide an extension for the time to comment, and the other is to help secure a responsible state certified group to inspect and provide an analysis for this Floodplain Restoration, with regard to potential impacts on my neighbors properties and the Greenwater bridge. The time for comment on this project is very short, ending July 24, 2009, and given the urgency, I seek assistance from those who might be best able to help.

In addition, I request information, regarding:

1. Documentation regarding the risks of engineered log jam failure and also documentation regarding who will be responsible for maintenance and/or remedial action.

2. I request that each of the logs used in constructing these proposed 16 engineered log jams be permanently branded to help identify them.

Lastly, kindly understand that I think this renovation project is good for the river, but it is vital that any risks for the home owners and the bridge be clearly addressed prior to moving the project forward.

Due to the short time before the comment period ends, I request that you acknowledge receipt of this request prior to July 25, 2009.

Thank you for your time and assistance.


Tracy Lebenzon

PS: Additional information can be found here:


Lorraine Hart said...

Best of luck with the bureaucracy Tracy...good job!

Lorraine Hart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jaynie Jones said...

Tracy, be sure to post an update on whatever success you have with getting a response.

All the best...