Mission: To promote the appreciation of wildlife and increase harmony between humanity and nature.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Speak for Nature

Friday (Oct. 5th, 2012) is the last chance for the Seattle community to comment on the new 520 bridge. With the size, complexity and cost of the whole project, it might seem too overwhelming to understand the project and add intelligent comments.

However, those of us who appreciate the world of nature on Union Bay can easily give valid and valuable comments. All we need to do is speak for those creatures who cannot speak for themselves.  Please take this opportunity to remind the folks at the Washington State Department of Transportation to keep nature in mind as they move forward. Please feel free to copy any of the following suggestions and email them to the WSDOT address given below.

 The current 520 plans contain a number of  positive environmental improvements, for example:

  > Daylighting the lower portion of the Arboretum Creek.

  > Replacing wetlands destroyed on Foster Island with new wetlands west of the current Arboretum offramp. 

  > Adding water collection and filtration systems so highway runoff stops polluting the lake.

We want to reinforce these goals and we do not wish to see any of them negotiated away to meet budget constraints. In addition, we would like to add a few common sense requests that require more thought than money. For instance: 

  > Please schedule work on Foster Island and the nearby wetlands to occur in fall and winter so young birds will have a chance to leave their nests and mature. 

  > Leave a couple of the current, tall 520 overpass support columns in place as nesting sites.  (Make sure they are well away from the shore and the new bridge so they can cause no damage in an earthquake.)

  > Engage environmentalists to design nesting sites on the surface of walls built around the bridge. The current 520 bridge supports nesting sites for Barn Swallows, Cliff Swallows and Rock Doves around Foster Island. We can do even better if we make an effort.

  > Route filtered 520 runoff into the Arboretum Creek as far upstream as possible. Every drop of clean water flowing through the creek increases our chances of getting salmon to spawn in the stream. 

  > Plant trees around the stream and the water collection sites to help keep the water as cool as possible. Salmon need cool water to spawn. 

  > Widen the day-lighted and regraded portions of Arboretum Creek to support increased water flow in the future. Once Arboretum Creek is reconnected to its original water sources it will support an abundance of spawning salmon, as it did originally.

  > Please ensure the stream bottom contains small, round pea gravel needed by spawning salmon.

If you have additional ideas for logical, common sense ways we could help ensure the 520 project is nature-friendly please add them in your email as well. You could also add those thoughts in the comments at the end of this blog so others can reinforce your ideas.

Please email the link to this blog site to anyone you know who cares about nature in Union Bay and near the new 520 bridge. 

Also since the City of Seattle owns Foster Island and the Arboretum park land it might be a good idea to "cc" the Seattle City Council with your email. It will just reinforce that these are important issues for voting citizens in Seattle.

Here are the critical links you will need:
  1. The WSDOT email address to send your comments to: SeattleCommunityDesign@wsdot.wa.gov
  2. The link to this blog site is: http://unionbaywatch.blogspot.com/2012/10/speak-for-nature.html
  3. The WSDOT website showing that the comment time is ending is: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr520bridge/I5toMedina
  4. The email address for the Seattle City Council: council@seattle.gov
Larry Hubbell

ps: Please excuse the strange formatting and font above. It is designed so that when copied into an email the background color looks normal.


  1. Thanks for putting this together

    1. You are welcome. I am looking forward to hearing other good ideas that we might suggest to WSDOT. Thank you for your involvement.

  2. Larry, Thanks so much for your great blog and your work here. I've heard this project will destroy 7 acres of wetlands. Does that sound correct to you?

    1. Ed, There are a lot of factors in play and I do not have complete information or knowledge. Yes, it would not surprise me if 7 acres of wetlands are destroyed. However there are 5 acres of new wetlands planned for the "meadow area" that is currently near the bridge-to-no-where. Plus there will be new wetlands in the area where some of the old bridge is removed. There will also be new wetlands and "meadow-like" area available when the arboretum on-ramps and off-ramps are removed. They are not to be replaced so that is a net gain. In addition over the shoreline it sounds like the new bridge will average 20+ feet above the water. That should allow fairly happy wetlands under the bridge. So if all of that happens as planned we should end up with a net gain in terms of wetlands, maybe even gaining as much as 7 acres. You can read more in the EIS at: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/A59D08B8-C9CF-4ED9-BDCC-1B468D45A8A5/0/FEIS_Chapter5Part5.pdf As I mentioned above my biggest issue is WHEN will the wetlands be destroyed.

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  4. Ed, After some more thought I realized your question brings up another issue, sorry if I was slow. If the ~7 acres of old wetlands is destroyed and not replaced in time for the following spring the birds will be forced to nest somewhere else. In following years they may or may not come back to the new wetlands. Maybe some of the new wetlands could be planted in time to be available for that first spring.

  5. FYI - for two days last week, one of the bald eagles was back perched on a lamp post on the west side of the 520 bridge. Haven't seen him/her since though.....

    1. I saw three of them on Monday above 520 south of Marsh Island and one earlier in the day south of the Union Bay Natural Area. Those were my first sightings since the middle of August. About the same time eagles returned to the Edmonds area as well. My wife saw something on the internet to indicate they leave during the peak of the summer heat to find a cooler location. I think I read that their body temperatures run about 105 degrees so that makes some sense. Hopefully, some day we cn figure out where exactly they go.