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Council calls for new rules to balance salmon habitat with swimmer safety


Metropolitan King County
Council News

Council calls for new rules to balance salmon habitat with swimmer safety


Placement of woody debris in rivers and streams for fish can be hazardous to summer recreation


The Metropolitan King County Council today unanimously called for development of rules to protect rafters and swimmers from the hazards created when large woody debris is put into rivers and streams to control flooding and enhance salmon habitat.

“With summer approaching and river recreation picking up, it’s critical that King County’s beautiful rivers and streams remain safe and accessible for people and fish,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, sponsor of the legislation. “By taking adequate safety measures, large wood can be placed in waterways to benefit fish habitat and help control flooding while minimizing risks to people boating and swimming in rivers.”

“This legislation offers another opportunity for the King County Council and cooperating agencies to keep our rivers safe for recreationalists, residents, and to support salmon recovery,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who co-sponsored the legislation. “Large woody debris is one of many tools for salmon recovery but its placement should not be at odds with public safety.

“The development of these new rules will create a better balance in the protection of both the safety of our citizens that use our rivers and streams and fish habitat,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “Water recreation activities are an important aspect of people connecting with our environment. The protection of opportunities for our citizens to interact with water will continue to foster respect and love for nature.”

Establishing large-wood emplacements in waterways of the region has become a common practice for enhancing habitat, shelter and feeding opportunities for fish, to control flooding, and to mitigate projects that disturb the natural values of waterways.

With the increased popularity of river recreation involving boating, kayaking, canoeing or use of a variety of recreational floatation devices, concerns have emerged about the potential hazard of large-wood emplacements to recreational river users.

The ordinance adopted today calls on the Executive to adopt rules for the County to follow when establishing large wood emplacements in rivers or streams, and requires that public safety be kept in mind when designing river habitats. It also calls for periodic independent monitoring and inspection of large wood debris once they are placed.

Under the legislation rules related to large-wood emplacements will be developed to require:

  • Development of project-specific conceptual designs for the installation of large-wood emplacements;

  • Inclusion of a description of the public safety considerations in the conceptual design;

  • Procedures by which the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) will inform interested parties about a project and the proposed conceptual design; and

  • Procedures by which DNRP will involve interested parties in a review of the conceptual design to include the type and extent of recreational water use in the area, public concerns related to the conceptual design, and ideas for reducing those concerns.

Read more about this legislation on the King County Council’s LEGISEARCH system at  and type in “2009-0367”

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