Background: agriculture in King County
Agricultural Drainage Assistance Program (ADAP)
In 1979, the voters of King County recognized the importance of keeping farming viable in King County and passed an initiative that protects farmland through the purchase of development rights. This initiative provided for a bond to establish the Farmland Preservation Program, which would enroll livestock and horticultural farms to protect them from development. This program focuses on the five King County Agricultural Production Districts or APDs (Acrobat pdf files):
However, development is only one of many threats to agricultural. Loss of productive farmland due to accumulated water also threatens agricultural sustainability. In the earliest years of King County's agriculture, an extensive drainage system, sometimes including subsurface drain tiles, was established to remove this water from the farm soil. This drainage system included the digging of new artificial ditches as well as the channelization of most streams that flowed through agricultural areas. Farmers periodically removed sediment and/or invasive weeds such as reed canarygrass from these waterways.
In 1990, King County, in compliance with the Growth Management Act, adopted the Sensitive Areas Ordinance (SAO). The SAO required property owners to obtain permits for many of the routine maintenance activities that had previously been performed without permits. The permit process around sensitive areas can be difficult and expensive which may have contributed to why some property owners stopped performing maintenance on their waterways. The permit process got even more complicated in 1998 when Bull Trout and Chinook Salmon, which currently and historically inhabited these waterways, were declared threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The lack of maintenance has resulted in many waterways having only a fraction of their original capacity due to the accumulation of sediment and/or growth of reed canarygrass.
The King County Agricultural Drainage Assistance Program was created in 1998 to help farmers navigate the permitting and construction process. Recently, the program has worked with local, state, and federal agencies to simplify the permitting process for a waterway maintenance project. The simplified permit process will allow more agricultural property owners to maintain their drainage system and increase their agricultural productivity.