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19 for 2019: DNRP’s top accomplishments for the year

Christie True

From garnering renewed public support for our parks and trails, to becoming the first local government in the nation to offer forest carbon credits, to taking emergency actions to save Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon, 2019 provided a wide range of accomplishments for the Department of Natural Resources and Parks. As we close out the year, let’s take a moment to reflect on and celebrate DNRP’s more notable successes – our “19 in 2019” – as a small sampling of our department’s important work to positively influence our residents’ quality of life.

I’m extremely proud of this department and its employees, and I want to thank them for all they do to provide regional parks and trails, protect the region’s water, air, land, natural habitats and historic properties, and reduce, safely dispose of and create resources from wastewater and solid waste.


Christie True,


Traveling 100 miles to support King County Parks

In August, King County voters approved a ballot measure by more than 70 percent to renew the county’s parks, trails, and open space levy, replacing an expiring six-year levy. Executive Constantine traveled 100 miles in 100 days along King County’s trails and through parks to highlight their value to our quality of life. Revenue from the renewed levy will spur countywide investments in parks, trails, recreation, and open space protection for the benefit of all King County residents.


The first local government with a Forest Carbon Program

A new Water and Land Resources Division Forest Carbon Program offers local companies the opportunity to offset carbon emissions and help King County protect forests and promote healthy habitat. The county acquires high-value forests and then offers buyers the opportunity to purchase carbon credits generated by keeping carbon in the forests. Funds go to protect more forests and which means more credits available for purchase. Microsoft and Fishermen’s Finest were the first companies to commit to buying carbon credits.


Listening to communities about clean water investments

King County Wastewater Treatment Division began engaging with stakeholders and the public to plan for future investments that result in the best water quality outcomes. The division faces major issues like aging wastewater pipes, pumps and treatment plants, stormwater pollution, climate impacts and changing regulations. Key to the Clean Water Plan is listening to communities on the best ways to make these investments, including historically under-represented communities.


Recycling right and responsible stewardship move forward

Progressing from “empty, clean and dry” messaging to cut recycling contamination, the Responsible Recycling Task Force continued its work by focusing on removing plastic bags and wrap from curbside recycling. Customers are asked to bring these materials to drop-off locations for proper recycling. Following coordination between the Solid Waste Division and WLRD, the state Legislature passed a paint product stewardship bill to provide more than 200 latex and oil-based paint recycling locations statewide for use by residents and small business owners.


New Fish Passage Program works to remove barriers for salmon recovery

Working with federal, state, tribal, and city officials, this WLRD program is identifying barriers to fish passage; assessing habitat and fish population restoration potential; coordinating with other protection and restoration actions; and making investments to achieve the greatest benefits for salmon recovery. This year the program initiated early action capital projects, began refining how it is prioritizing barriers based on potential benefits to salmon, and completed site visits to characterize more than 1,000 sites.


Taking action to ensure youth get the physical activity they need

King County Parks, in partnership with UW, launched the “Play Equity Coalition.” In response to findings that less than 19% of King County youth are getting adequate physical activity, the coalition will unite efforts by school districts, park agencies, health care providers, community groups, and our region’s professional sports teams to reduce barriers and ensure equitable access to physical activity for youth.


Combatting climate change

In 2019 King County won three competitive Washington State solar and energy efficiency grants to support 302 kilowatts of solar panels at the Enumclaw and Vashon transfer stations, and for a high efficiency natural gas-to-heat pump mechanical system at the Water and Land Resources Division’s Environmental Lab. The county also included new measures in its Comprehensive Plan to strengthen shoreline regulations to address sea level rise, and began laying the foundation for its 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan with public workshops and deep engagement with partners through the Climate and Equity Community Task Force.


Unveiling ‘Eastrail’ – formerly known as Eastside Rail Corridor

King County and its partners in July unveiled “Eastrail,” a new name for the burgeoning 42-mile multipurpose regional trail previously known as Eastside Rail Corridor. Eastrail – pronounced “ee – strail” – is owned and managed by King County, Snohomish County, the cities of Kirkland, Redmond, and Woodinville, Sound Transit, and Puget Sound Energy. It was purchased to create a publicly owned, uninterrupted multi-use corridor along the spine of East King County. About 13 miles of trail are open to the public.


Defining a path for achieving zero waste of resources

Following a year-long collaborative effort with cities and stakeholders, the Solid Waste Division’s 2019 Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan was adopted by the Washington Department of Ecology. Adoption of the Comp Plan clears the path for the County and its 37 partner cities to boost the regional recycling rate from 54% to 70%, continue to modernize the transfer system, and to find new modes of garbage disposal after the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill reaches capacity.


Taking emergency action to ensure the survival of native kokanee salmon

King County and partners continue to help ensure the survival of the Lake Sammamish kokanee, a native salmon important to our region’s history and habitat. This year’s actions included volunteers flying young kokanee to a world-class hatchery on Orcas Island, making it possible for more salmon to return to their native streams to spawn, and partnering with the Snoqualmie Tribe on a ceremonial release of young kokanee.


Accelerating open space protection to ensure greenspace access for all

Bonding legislation adopted in 2019 in support of the Land Conservation Initiative is dramatically accelerating the rate at which King County can protect farm, forest, habitat and urban greenspaces in the short term. Passage of the legislation tripled the amount of Conservation Futures Tax funding King County has available in 2019 and 2020. The legislation incorporated investment recommendations from an Open Space Equity Cabinet to ensure that all King County residents have easy access to health-promoting greenspaces, including historically underserved communities.


Cleanup LIFT makes services more equitable

SWD began a new low-income discount program called Cleanup LIFT to make services more equitable for customers who bring their garbage and recycling to a King County facility. Qualifying customers get a $12 discounted disposal fee through Cleanup LIFT, providing financial relief to the division’s most financially vulnerable customers. The program is on track to achieve close to 5,000 transactions for the year - saving customers almost $60,000.


Growing the alliance to plant 1 million trees throughout King County

DNRP accelerated its work to help plant 1 Million Trees by the end of 2020 and is nearing its goal. As of early December 2019, a coalition of cities, nonprofits, schools, and volunteers has planted more than 921,000 trees. Executive Constantine launched 1 Million Trees in 2015 to combat the effects of climate change by capturing carbon pollution while improving neighborhood and habitat health. In 2019, King County offered $700,000 in grant funding to assist partners with planting more trees to help reach our 1 Million Tree goal. King County continues to offer volunteer opportunities during the current planting season.


Investing in people, cleaning up communities

The Solid Waste Division and DNRP partnered with the Department of Local Services and Millionair Club Charity on a six-month pilot project to offer dignified employment opportunities to people experiencing homelessness or poverty in unincorporated communities where garbage pick-up had been a lingering problem. The new King County Conservation Corps will continue through mid-April 2020 and provides garbage removal and other clean-up services five days a week in White Center and Skyway, with similar services in the planning stage for Fairwood and East Federal Way.


Mitigation Reserves Program provides vital revenue for habitat projects

Launched in 2012, the Mitigation Reserves Program allows permittees with unavoidable wetland, river, stream, and buffer impacts to mitigate them by paying a fee to King County, which uses the funds to protect or improve habitat within the same watershed. This WLRD program collected more than $30 million from public agencies and private development entities and constructed two projects this summer: 13 acres of riparian restoration on Taylor Creek, and 11 acres of riverine wetland enhancement and restoration on Issaquah Creek within the greater 41 acre Middle Issaquah Creek Natural Area.


New Trailhead Direct routes connect more hikers to more trails

Passengers boarded Trailhead Direct for more than 17,500 hikes in the second season of the two-year pilot project co-led by King County Metro and King County Parks, a 75% increase from 2018. The transit-to-trails service added a fourth route this season starting at the Tukwila International Boulevard Station, serving some of the nation’s most racially diverse communities. Ridership from Sound Transit’s Capitol Hill Link light rail station to Mount Si more than doubled.


Aging Eastside sewer line gets new life

Work on one of the main sewer lines that brings wastewater from eastside homes and businesses to WTD’s South Treatment Plant in Renton is now finished and the flows have been returned to the Eastside Interceptor sewer line. Restoration, sidewalk and street repair will be completed during the first quarter of 2020. This project repaired about 3,700 feet of the 50-year-old line, which was corroded in places and nearing the end of its service life, and will allow the pipe to stay in use for many more decades.


RainWise builds green stormwater projects at school, senior housing property

The WTD RainWise program continues to expand green stormwater infrastructure on private properties and provide rebates on the cost of installing cisterns and rain gardens. More than 850 RainWise projects manage rainfall from more than 1.2 million square feet of roof. Built in 2019, Highland Park Elementary school’s cisterns and rain garden will capture nearly 50,000 gallons of stormwater a year. Cisterns and a rain garden were installed at Willis House, a Seattle Housing Authority low-income senior apartment property.


New landfill disposal area begins accepting waste

The newest disposal cell at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill began accepting waste in August, extending SWD’s ability to manage waste locally at the lowest cost with the fewest environmental impacts. Nearly 1.8 million cubic yards of soil was excavated before protective liners and environmental controls were installed, such as leachate and landfill gas collection pipes. The new area has capacity for an estimated 7.5 million tons of garbage and is expected to accept waste for about eight years.